Manchester United travelled to Anfield tonight to taste their first Premier League action since the International break.
Jose Mourinho was keen to bounce back from United’s disappointing performance last time out in the Premier League, when the Red Devils saw out a 1-1 draw against Stoke City. However, that didn’t seem to be the case today, as Manchester United were involved in another draw.
David De Gea performed tremendously tonight, and if it weren’t for his string of saves, United may have left without a single point to their name.
Jose started the match with a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation, although it was morphed into a 4-3-3 formation to maximise Pogba’s use in the squad.
Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling paired in the heart of the United defence, while Antonio Valencia and Daley Blind were deployed as full-backs. Ahead of the defenders laid the defensive midfield pairing of Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera.
Zlatan Ibrahimović led United’s front line while Ashley Young and Marcus Rashford commanded the wings. Paul Pogba was played in the No. 10 spot.
Fans had expected to see Manchester United’s summer signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan start the match, after the manager confirmed that he was available for selection. However, it seems that the Armenian is still being rested.
Luke Shaw was also a surprise omission from the starting eleven, although he was listed as a substitute, alongside Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata. Captain Wayne Rooney began the match on the bench, and Chris Smalling was awarded the armband.
Wayne Rooney came on during the 77th minute as Jose Mourinho continues the captain’s exile from the starting eleven. The United captain didn’t have much of an impact on the match, and subsequently saw out the club’s second draw in the League so far.
However, it could have been much worse, and credit goes to Jose Mourinho for how he set up a solid and restricting team.
Here are the 5 things we learned from tonight’s match:
- Jose Mourinho wanted the draw
Many Manchester United fans were eager to earn bragging rights on Monday night, however, it was clear that Jose Mourinho had other ideas on his mind.
The former Real Madrid manager is known to sometimes play it safe and hold out for a point.It certainly makes sense, as 1 point is better than none.
However, fans have begun comparing Mourinho with former United manager Louis Van Gaal.
The Dutchman, who was sacked at the end of last season after his 5th place finish in the league, was also known to favour a mean and disciplined game and hold out for a point rather than none.
Mourinho, who is characterised for his ‘park the bus tactic’, may not have a Sir Alex Ferguson effect on the current squad. However, doing anything to get the points does help.
- Paul Pogba given more leeway
Since the mega-money arrival of Paul Pogba from Juventus, fans and pundits from around the globe have been debating on which his most effective position for Manchester United will be.
Jose Mourinho began this season by playing the 23-year-old in a central defensive midfield position, however, as the matches rolled by, Mourinho began altering Pogba’s position.
Fans have been urging the manager to play Pogba in a sort of left-midfield position, similar to the role he played in the Juventus squad.
Today, the Frenchman was given the license to venture forward, while Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini assumed a more defensive role.
Herrera performed brilliantly, with many proclaiming him the man of the match. The Spaniard’s defensive position allowed Pogba to be pushed forward, a move which seems to have paid off.
- Wayne Rooney’s opportunities slowing diminishing
The Manchester United captain has spent a lot of time on the United bench during recent matches, with his last start for the club coming last month in the EFL Cup.
Since then, Rooney hasn’t started a single match for Jose. His absence looks to be taking an effect on the squad, for the better.
Throughout the years, the Red Devils’ squads have been sculpted around Wayne Rooney, however, with the Englishman ageing and losing form, it’s time to find a new hero.
As the matches go by, Rooney’s chances to fight his way back into the first team look to be finishing.
He was brought on in the 77th minute against Liverpool, but failed to make much of an impact, as United failed to secure all 3 points.
Jose Mourinho is the first Manchester United manager in the past 3 years who has not been afraid to drop the skipper, and his choice seems to be slowly paying off.
- Liverpool suffer without Wijnaldum
Liverpool’s summer signing Georginio Wijnaldum arrived with plenty of promise this season and it’s clear that the Dutch midfielder is a vital member of the squad.
He greatly impressed with Newcastle last season, and his performances prompted Klopp to spend a massive £25 million to bring him out of the Championship.
After joining the Reds, he continued his incredible performances, and the players definitely looked a little lost in midfield tonight, although that’s also due to Mourinho’s possessive and constricting style of play.
Liverpool fans have been happy to see the athleticism and power that Wijnaldum brings to the table, and will be hoping to see him playing as soon as possible.
- Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling are solid
Throughout the summer and even in recent weeks, reports have claimed that Jose Mourinho is on the lookout for another defender.
Jose Fonte, Fabinho, and Bonucci have all been linked with a switch to the Red Devils, but with United new-boy Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling manning central defence, it seems the Manchester United have a solid and reliable backbone.
Bailly has featured in 11 matches this season, and he looks to have already adapted well. His strength and pace allow him to pressure attackers into losing the ball.
ailly’s aerial presence isn’t the greatest, however, Chris Smalling works great in this area.
If Mourinho can keep both these players fit for the rest of the season, Manchester United may not even need to splurge on another defender in the winter.