Liverpool's perfect start to the Premier League season came to an end on Sunday as they laboured to a 1-1 draw with a spirited Manchester United side at Old Trafford.
The first half was played with real pace and energy, and it was United who controversially drew first blood. Daniel James' perfect cross found Marcus Rashford in the box, and the Englishman tapped home to give his side the lead after 36 minutes, despite calls from Liverpool for a foul on Divock Origi from Victor Lindelof.
In the second half, United sat back to defend their lead. Liverpool were forced to settle for speculative efforts from distance, whilst United came close to grabbing a second when Rashford's low drive fizzed past the post.
Liverpool looked to be heading to defeat, but substitute Adam Lallana grabbed a late equaliser when he tapped in at the back post to ensure their unbeaten start to the season continued, but only just.
Key Talking Point
Well then, nobody saw this coming. For weeks, United have been ridiculed for their poor performances, but the Red Devils looked nothing like that side here.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's decision to switch to a back three gave United more defensive stability, and David de Gea's return to fitness helped inspire confidence. They played with desire and energy, which is exactly what fans have been crying out for all season.
Am really liking the formation from United and the back three. Too bad Tuanzebe went out during pregame warmup. Also impressed with how AWB and James are linking up— Adam Arbogast (@ArbogastAdam) October 20, 2019
They opted to sit back after the break, and understandably so. The team were resolute and organised, and it was clear just how much they wanted this win. They were unfortunate not to get it, but expect to see Solskjaer stick with this formation in the coming weeks, because this was the Red Devils' best showing of the campaign.
Starting XI: De Gea (6); Wan-Bissaka (7), Maguire (7), Lindelöf (6), Rojo (7), Young (7); McTominay (7), Fred (6), Pereira (7); James (7), Rashford (8*).
Substitutes: Martial (N/A), Williams (N/A).
His energetic showing was impossible to deal with. Liverpool's defence could not keep up with Rashford, who was running down the channels and into the area with frightening ease. He was involved in absolutely everything positive for United.
Rashford has Virgil’s confidence in tatters— GRIME$ (@fadagrimes) October 20, 2019
When rashford plays with confidence he’s unstoppable— setty (@KhaleSetareh) October 20, 2019
Rashford deserved his goal, which came about because of his desire to run into the box. A beautiful cross from James found his run, and Rashford could hardly miss. This was the kind of performance which fans expect from him, and the applause he got when he left the field was proof that they were delighted with his effort.
Key Talking Point
In pursuit of that record-tying 18th consecutive win, Liverpool looked like they didn't really want it. They were second best for the majority of the game, only for a late Lallana goal to save the day.
With Mohamed Salah out through injury, the onus was one the rest of Liverpool's attack to step up, and they simply did not. Jordan Henderson and Fabinho both lacked the nous to create something out of nothing, but Mané and Roberto Firmino also looked off the pace.
Rigged or not (it obviously is duh), Liverpool aren't playing like they're calling the shots in the league right now. Negative body language since minute 1, they simply don't look confident they are winning— Liverpool Hardline (@LFC_Hardline) October 20, 2019
An absolute shocker from Klopp. Salah is injured and the whole team falls apart and his masterplan is to put Lallana on.... 😱😱😱— Psykologtrader (@wedholm_dennis) October 20, 2019
With this lineup, Jürgen Klopp clearly favoured work ethic over creativity, and it almost cost him dearly. Introducing Lallana gave the Reds the flair which they were lacking, and they managed to get out of this one without suffering too much damage.
Starting XI: Alisson (6); Alexander-Arnold (6), Matip (6), Van Dijk (6), Robertson (6); Henderson (5), Fabinho (5), Wijnaldum (7*); Mané (6), Firmino (4), Origi (6).
Substitutes: Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Lallana (7), Keita (N/A).
STAR PLAYER - Liverpool's midfield was not up to scratch here, but that certainly was not the fault of Georginio Wijnaldum.
The Dutchman was a powerful presence at the heart of the pitch, and he showcased some impressive footwork and vision to try and keep his side moving forward. He isn't supposed to be the creative force in midfield, but Wijnaldum was forced to try and step up to help his side recover.
liverpool need to come out like themselves for this second half because that first half was atrocious from everybody not named georginio wijnaldum— conal (@Conal7x26) October 20, 2019
Wijnaldum faded as the game progressed, but his energy was still clear to see. Liverpool's midfield was abysmal here, but they would have been far worse off without Wijnaldum.
United head to Serbia to face Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League, before returning to domestic action with a trip to Norwich City on Sunday.