As two late saves from Alisson Becker rescued a 0-0 draw for Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ruined a missed chance for Manchester United to set a marker in the Premier League title chase.
At the top of the table, United stayed three points ahead of the champions but struggled to take advantage of a weakened defense of Liverpool.
Few other visiting parties have come closer to breaking Liverpool’s 68-game unbeaten streak at Anfield in the Premier League as Alisson proved his worth in the final 15 minutes to deny Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.
“It was an opportunity missed with the chances we had but then again we were playing a very good side,” Solskjaer said.
“I think we grew in the game and toward the end, it was there for us to win. We created two massive chances and it was two brilliant saves by the keeper.”
The disappointment of Solskjaer, however, is an indication of how far United have come in the year since on their last trip to Anfield they last suffered a defeat away in domestic football.
Last season, a huge 33 points separated the sides as Liverpool ended a 30-year wait to win the title.
United are now looking to break their own slump, as for the first time since the retirement of former manager Alex Ferguson eight years ago, they have been forced into contention on the basis of an undefeated 12-game streak.
Nevertheless, with both their title rivals, Manchester City may be the big winners of fallen points.
The men of Pep Guardiola are five points off the top, but have two games in hand over those above them, the first of which later on Sunday comes at home to Crystal Palace.
Liverpool was once again without any fit senior center-backs, forcing Fabinho and Jordan Henderson to partner midfielders in defense with Jurgen Klopp.
Yet, considering the loss of the talismanic Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip to injury, the root of the Reds’ woes in recent weeks has been scoring goals, not conceding them.
For the first time since 2005, Klopp’s men have failed to score in three consecutive league matches and are now winless in their last four in the Premier League.
“What we miss is the goal,” said Klopp. “For all the things said before the game, they are flying and we are struggling, I think my boys played a really good game.”
-Thiago is pulling the strings-
Klopp reminded Xherdan Shaqiri of adding an innovative spark, while Thiago Alcantara made his Anfield debut after a long injury layoff, four months after his arrival from Bayern Munich.
As United battled to establish a foothold in the opening half-hour, Thiago pulled the strings.
Liverpool, however, struggled to count its supremacy as Roberto Firmino slashed their best chance well wide from the layoff of Sadio Mane.
A change in the fortunes of United dates back a year to the signing of Fernandes shortly after the sides last met.
The Portuguese international midfielder soon established himself as the talisman of the Red Devils and posed the greatest threat to his side again.
The free-kick of Fernandes that curved inches wide was as close as either side came before the break to break the deadlock and he then had the visitors shot on goal for the first time 25 minutes from the moment Alisson comfortably gathered.
Nevertheless, when the game was extended late on, United started to pick Liverpool off on the counter-attack.
Fernandes had his best chance of winning the game 15 minutes later, but Alisson was identical to Luke Shaw’s low cutback shot.
Moments later, the goalkeeper from Liverpool made an even better save to turn the fiercely struck shot of Pogba behind and prevent United from opening a major gap over their rivals.
“We can’t deny Man Utd for 90 minutes with the quality they have,” added Klopp. “They had two big chances and Ali made two big saves.”
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN