Recently, Manchester United hosted Liverpool at Old Trafford and, with both clubs placed in the top six of the table prior to the fixture, the match may have provided an insight into who may challenge for Champions League football, and ultimately the title. It seemed Manchester United may have been the favourites for the tie, perhaps most prominently due to the Red Devils winning nine consecutive matches, Mourinho’s longest run since January 2006, yet with Liverpool seemingly utilising their superior position in the table as motivation, the teams shared the points; the match may have therefore provided an insight into which club may be superiorly equipped in their quest for Europe.
After Manchester United’s seemingly consistent run of form, Mourinho seemed to opt to continue his utilisation of a 4-2-3-1 formation, perhaps his favoured tactic after his spell with Chelsea. With Wayne Rooney having started the previous two fixtures, it seemed Mourinho opted to rest his captain, and reinstate top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimović. With the Swede having scored 18 goals in all competitions since his arrival from PSG in the summer, it seemed he warranted a start, yet Mourinho’s decision to start differing players may highlight the Portuguese’s adaptability, whilst simultaneously showcasing United’s squad depth, as they seem to possess multiple players capable of challenging for a first team place; both of these traits may be pivotal throughout the season.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp seemed to also focus on familiarity, using a 4-3-3 formation, and a resolute backline philosophy, perhaps in an attempt to nullify United’s forwards. Simon Mignolet returned after Loris Karius’ start in midweek, and the Belgian seemed to perform at a high standard, making two key saves versus Ibrahimović, suggesting Klopp’s decision may have provided dividends. The away side may also have been boosted by the return of Joe Gomez to the bench after injury; the England U21 international may enable Klopp to rotate his full-backs, and continue his quest to win two trophies this season.
It seemed to be Liverpool who started the match playing at a higher standard, with their high-pressing philosophy seemingly resulting in chances and a James Milner penalty ensured they entered the interval with a 1-0 lead. At half-time, Mourinho seemed to alter his philosophy, substituting on Wayne Rooney for match-day captain Michael Carrick, and his decision to utilise his talisman as a enganche seemed to act as the catalyst in United gaining a draw. Rooney, along with fellow substitutes Mata and Fellaini, seemingly impacted the midfield in the home side’s favour, with the latter contributing to Ibrahimović’s equaliser. The result seemingly allowed both sides to ensure their top six positions, whilst perhaps simultaneously suggesting both teams are evenly matched, possibly leading to an intriguing conclusion to the season.
Whilst the fixture seemed to provide an insight into the rest of the season in terms of league position, it may also have highlighted the quality of players on show. Multiple English players were included for both teams, which may suggest English talent is capable of competing at the top level, both domestically and internationally; these players seemed to achieve personal records in the match also, with Wayne Rooney becoming the 21st player to make 450 EPL appearances, and James Milner extending his run of scoring in games which his team win or draw to 46. Plus, with the transfer window perhaps enabling the managers to entice other top talent to join the English game, perhaps competition for places may elevate their performances further.
In the upcoming game-week, Manchester United face Stoke, whilst Liverpool host Swansea, and both teams may be looking to gain three points as they seek to re-establish themselves in the top four. Presently, it seems both sides may be well-equipped to achieve this feat, yet with the transfer window ongoing, perhaps either manager may aim to bring in an influx of new players in order to elevate their quest. With both teams also facing upcoming EFL Cup semi-finals, it seems either side may be able to win one, or two trophies this season, perhaps increasing their ever-extending trophy cabinets, and legacies, as England’s most successful clubs.
How may this match impact both managers’ tactics as they aim to improve their squad depth in the transfer window?