By 90Min
February 24, 2019

Over the years, Manchester United and Liverpool have offered up some absolute crackers. In recent memory, standouts include the the Reds' 3-0 humbling of United in 2014, Dimitar Berbatov's dramatic late winner in 2010s 3-2 thriller, and Liverpool's 3-1 win earlier in the season that saw Jose Mourinho sacked as United manager. Which, in truth, did them a favour.

Sunday's clash at Old Trafford was quite rightly billed as the 'game of the season', as Liverpool looked to make a huge statement about their title-winning credentials by defeating United in their own back yard. In the end, a series of injuries to both sides saw the game unravel into a damp squib, as neither side was unable to find the breakthrough in a 0-0 draw.

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Interestingly, the result saw the two sides rack up their fifth draw in their last seven meetings - that's more than they produced in the previous fifty encounters. For a fixture that's enthralled both fans and neutrals alike for decades, it's an alarming statistic, and one that is certainly worth some examination.

Now, the latest match between the two sides was particularly rich in footballing narrative; Liverpool were looking to power three points clear at the top of the table, while United were looking to derail their title challenge. Perhaps, with such a build-up, this game was always going to prove a disappointment.

But there's surely more to it than mere hype; ever since the advent of the Premier League, football coverage in the UK - and indeed around the world - has increased exponentially, and the matches between the two sides have been veritable goal feasts throughout the competition. 

No, the aforementioned statistic can be explained by two key factors: 1. Jose Mourinho's reign at Old Trafford, and 2. Liverpool's remarkably improved defence. 

Certainly, the 'Special One' took great pride in his ability to completely stink the house out in high-profile matches during his reign. Time and time again, Mourinho would head into such games looking to grind out a narrow result, and relished the opportunity to frustrate his opponents with a deeply defensive mindset. And Marouane Fellaini.

Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

Mourinho took his side to Anfield on three occasions, and succeeded in setting his side out to earn a goalless draw on the first two trips, before succumbing to defeat in what was his last match in charge of the Red Devils. Some might say this was the ultimate karma desert for making fans suffer through the immeasurably unappetising first two courses of football.


Now onto Liverpool, and their contribution to this statistical anomaly. It's been referenced continually throughout the season, but the Reds' transformation from gung-ho madmen to shrewd defensive is nothing short of a miracle. Okay, it's a £75m miracle named Virgil van Dijk, but Klopp deserves a hefty amount of credit for the turnaround too.

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On Sunday, the charismatic coach once again set his defence up perfectly, with the backline never looking in any real danger against their opponents. This was also helped by the industrial midfield pairing of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, who harried United's attacking players relentlessly.

The recent meetings between the two sides have been similar from a Liverpool perspective, with their 3-1 win magically combining the best of attacking and defensive football. Certainly, a wiser team has emerged at Anfield this season, and their more measured approach will put them in excellent stead to win their first ever Premier League title in May.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see whether matches between the two sides will continue to be cagey affairs. With caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær looking increasingly likely to be given the job permanently in the summer, United look set to play their free-flowing football for some time to come, and stodgy 0-0s should become a thing of the past.

It remains to be seen whether Liverpool have the bottle to win the Premier League, and they've got a mighty challenge ahead of them to pip Manchester City to the post. Perhaps next season, in separate circumstances, we might see Klopp revert to the thrilling football we saw in the 2017/18 campaign, and give United's defence a harrowing couple of matches.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)