Liverpool’s Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (L) vies with Manchester United’s Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera (C) and Manchester United’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (R) during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on October 14, 2017. The game ended 0-0. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS
Liverpool’s latest showdown with bitter rivals Manchester United ended in a 0-0 draw at Anfield on Saturday.
Here AFP Sport looks at the key talking points from a Premier League encounter high on perspiration but low on inspiration:
No lift for Klopp
Asked on Friday if he was worried about his job security after a difficult start to the season, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp struck a defiant tone.
“Unfortunately, if they sacked me now, there would not be a lot of managers who would do the job better than I do,” said Klopp, who is yet to win a trophy in his two-year reign.
Despite that confidence in his own ability, Klopp could have done with a swaggering victory over old rivals United to convince any doubters in the Anfield boardroom and on the Kop.
Instead, Klopp’s side once again failed to turn possession into goals and have now won just one of their last eight matches in all competitions, a barren run that has jeopardised their title hopes and put their hopes of advancing from the Champions League group stage at risk.
United park the bus
When Mourinho brought United to Anfield 12 months ago, he opted for an ultra-conservative approach that left Liverpool frustrated and neutrals bored in a tame 0-0 draw.
Having scored four goals four times in the league this season, Mourinho had joked he would play nine attackers at Anfield this time, but the reality was another safety-first game-plan from the arch pragmatist.
He left Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata on the bench and sent United out in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Romelu Lukaku the lone striker and Anthony Martial asked to do plenty of defensive work on the left flank.
In contrast to Manchester City’s assertive display in their statement win at Chelsea in September, United delivered a big-game performance as drab as their grey away shirts.
It took a brilliant David De Gea save from Joel Matip to deny Liverpool, but Mourinho won’t care about that after securing a point that maintained United’s unbeaten league record this season and could prove valuable to their title aspirations.
Stars fail to dazzle
Lukaku had scored his last nine games for United and Belgium, taking his tally this term to 16 in all competitions, but the powerful striker was a subdued figure for long periods at Anfield.
United’s cautious tactics didn’t help, but Lukaku touched the ball once in the first 20 minutes and when he did get a glimpse of goal just before half-time he drilled his shot straight at Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, extending his poor run at Anfield.
Liverpool’s main men fared no better as they were held in check by United with relative ease.
Klopp suffered a huge blow in the build-up when Sadio Mane was ruled out for six weeks after suffering a hamstring injury on international duty.
With Senegal winger Mane watching from the stands, Klopp needed Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah to shine, but none could make an impact and it was telling that their best chance fell to Cameroon defender Matip.