14 October 2017

Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United

Liverpool played well. Liverpool still got Mourinho'd.

It is frustrating to see United come to Anfield with no ambition other than keeping Liverpool out, but it's what Jose Mourinho does at Anfield.

And it works. It especially works when United are already seven points ahead of Liverpool because of Liverpool's earlier disappointments against the type of sides that United have already blown away.

This fixture's become a damp squib, which is exactly how Mourinho likes it. And it's a damp squib that Liverpool haven't won in the last seven league meetings.

For Liverpool's 62% possession, for Liverpool's 19-6 shot difference, for Liverpool's five shots on-target to United's one, for Liverpool's 1.8-0.3 xG difference, there really isn't that much to regret in front of goal. Compared to previous regrets, at least. De Gea had his usual moment of brilliance at Anfield when denying Matip in the 34rd minute, swiftly followed by Salah firing narrowly wide. Can's awkward close-range flick over from Gomez's wonderful cross in the 56th. A soft-but-seen-them-given penalty shout for Coutinho in the 61st. And that's about all worth mentioning.

So, yeah, three very good chances, and one penalty claim. Which, admittedly, is a lot for this fixture. But it wasn't simply failing to put the damned ball in the damned net, as against Burnley, Spartak, etc. It was the final ball not good enough. It was an inability to deal with Mourinho's damned parked bus, and not for the first time. It was Manchester United's good at the defense; that have conceded just two league goals, after all. Not enough potency, again, but more importantly, not enough guile.

They also need to stop scheduling this fixture right after an international break. This was a lot like last season, except United are in far better form and Liverpool aren't.

At least Liverpool barely gave United a glimpse at their goal. Even less than this fixture last season. United played for counters and set plays – Liverpool's demonstrable weaknesses – and created one moment of note, when Liverpool lost possession in transition, got diced through the middle, and Mignolet denied a fierce but straight rocket from Lukaku just before halftime. Three corners and a couple of free kicks led to nothing, potential counter-attacks were smothered well, especially by Liverpool's full-backs.

That's Liverpool's third clean sheet of the season. Crystal Palace – still yet to score in the league – Arsenal, and Manchester United. It is a weird season and this is a weird team.

It is somewhat surprising to see a side that's scored 33 goals through 11 matches in all competitions, that's scored three or more goals in five of their last six games, play so negatively but hi have you met Jose Mourinho.

So, yes, Liverpool played well. Liverpool still drew, for the fifth time in the last seven matches.

I still maintain that "one win in eight" lies. Liverpool's two losses came because of a red card and in a competition no one cares about. Liverpool should have won approximately three or four more of those matches. But it's still one win in eight.

It'd be better if Liverpool were firing on all cylinders. It'd be easier if Liverpool were bad. But Liverpool are just barely not quite good enough. Either wasting chances, or conceding too easily on those aforementioned counters and set plays, or simply unable to break down the super-powered version of Tony Pulis' Stoke. Almost there. But not quite good enough. Again.

Liverpool are close. But close is only good enough in horseshoes and hand grenades. It's certainly not good enough in this league.

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