It was the same scoreline as last season and the game wasn’t too dissimilar in terms of how it played out. Liverpool dominated, as you’d expect from a home side, and United offered nothing going forward.
It was somewhat of an anticlimax. In the build up to the match many concentrated on United’s new look beefed up attack which had been scoring for fun coming up against Liverpool porous defence without a clean sheet since the second match of the season at home to Crystal Palace – hardly an achievement.
But the onslaught many expected never arrived. United, without Paul Pogba in midfield, looked lost whenever the ball went into the Liverpool half.
The Reds had a number of opportunities but a mix of David de Gea and a poor final ball meant they weren’t able to find a breakthrough. They’ve now scored just the two open play goals against United in 540 minutes worth of football.
Jürgen Klopp will no doubt be frustrated, his side have now won just the one game in eight, but the performance was positive and sooner or later it’s going to click.
Here are five tactical takeaways from the match:
Liverpool can cope without Sadio Mané
Last season the Reds toiled when they weren’t able to name Mané in their starting XI. The lack of pace was noticeable and their dynamic attacking unit looked lacklustre, blunt and void of any creativity.
Klopp spent close to £80million in the summer bringing in two players so that his team weren’t overly reliant on the Senegalese speedster. Mohamed Salah arrived from Roma and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain swapped London for Liverpool.
The former looks at home in the Liverpool team whereas the latter is still being integrated. However, it was clear that the Merseyside club still posed a threat to a formidable United backline – who have conceded just the two goals all season – without the services of Mané.
Klopp’s men had the best opportunities – 19 shots in total with five on target – and only fine margins prevented them from taking the lead. The flick of de Gea’s boot, Can poking the ball over, Salah not getting enough curl on his effort and Roberto Firmino’s lofted cross being inches overhit with Salah steaming in at the back post.
Joe Gomez impresses at right-back
When Nathaniel Clyne was ruled out with an injury at the start of the season it felt like there was an opportunity for Trent Alexander-Arnold to cement his place in the starting XI. He more than impressed early on and netted a memorable goal on his Champions League debut.
MOTM: Joe Gomez (20). Basically pocketed every Man United player who came in his way.
He may not offer as much as TAA going forward, however, Gomez is quickly becoming one of Klopp's most reliable players. pic.twitter.com/6R393hetce
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) October 14, 2017
However, he had a torrid time against Manchester City and there was talk that Clyne’s return couldn’t come quick enough.
Up stepped Gomez, a player who sees himself at centre-back in the long-term, but has quietly been going about his business as a full-back in place of Alexander-Arnold. And he's been catching the eye.
He was awarded the Man of the Match award today and it was fully deserved. He dealt with both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford and was even a threat going forward for the Reds.
He won three of his four tackles and 50 per cent of his aerial duels. He was also composed on the ball despite an aggressive press from United at times, completing 87 per cent of his 30 passes.
Has Klopp found his new right-back?
Mourinho adapts his team to combat Liverpool’s threats
Mourinho is often accused of being boring and defensive but he’s also intelligent and tactically aware. Last season he used Ander Herrera to mak-mark Eden Hazard and this time around he tasked Antonio Valencia with keeping tabs on Coutinho.
The United captain was vacating his right-back position and following the Brazilian into central areas so he was ready to snap at his heels if the ball reached the Liverpool No.10. While it will no doubt be praised as a proactive move on the part of Mourinho there an ulterior motive for it.
Earlier this week, Andrew Gibney analysed the United right-back and looked at how cracks were beginning to appear in his game and it’s worth noting that Liverpool did have a lot of joy down their left hand side even with Ashley Young starting ahead of Valencia.
He failed to track Firmino, and just stood watching him, when the Brazilian drifted into the space between centre-back and full-back before crossing it for Salah. With a better final ball
Was this a move on Mourinho’s part to protect his right-back but without making it obvious that teams should be targeting the former Wigan Athletic man?
Liverpool’s tactical tweak
Just as they did against Leicester City in their last league win, Liverpool changed the shape of their midfield. Instead of having Jordan Henderson sitting deeper than Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum it was more of a two-one shape with Wijnaldum afforded the freedom to support the attack.
Klopp then showed his tactical flexibility by having the Dutchman trade places with Coutinho throughout in an attempt to get the Brazilian more involved in the game in central areas.
It worked for both players with Coutinho pulling the strings, completing four dribbles and playing one key pass, while Wijnaldum had his best game of the season. The Liverpool No.5 completed three dribbles, won two tackles and finished with an 86 per cent pass success rate.
Wijnaldum played a more attacking role before moving to Anfield so has that ability but Klopp rarely uses him there. Perhaps this could be a bit of an eye opener for the manager.
Manchester United really aren’t the same without Pogba or Marouane Fellaini
Coming to Anfield is never an easy task and doing so without two of your starting midfielders will no doubt impact the way you approach the game.
United have great depth but it was glaringly obvious that they lacked the presence the two midfielders bring to the team. Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic are good midfielders in their own right but neither have Pogba’s swagger on the ball or Fellaini’s aerial ability.
Herrera, United's fans player of the year last season, looked rusty. Understandable given he's not been a starter this time around but it's going to hurt the Red Devils' midfield if he doesn't quickly get up to speed. He kept leaving holes in the middle third for Liverpool to exploit and he missed six of the 15 tackles he attempted.