For 85 minutes at Old Trafford, there was a beautiful symmetry to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United career to date and his beleaguered side led the European champions and the Premier League leaders in the early hours of Monday morning (AEDT).
The Norwegian was handed his dream job on the back of Jose Mourinho’s humbling 3-1 defeat against the same Liverpool side back in December.
The Reds’ return to Old Trafford was met with a tactics switch from Solskjaer as he opted to switch to a back five with the inclusion of Axel Tuanzebe – and then Marcos Rojo after the former’s injury in the warm up.
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It was the first time the Red Devils have lined up like that since that fateful 3-0 defeat under Mourinho, who was watching on from the television studio at Old Trafford.
But five minutes from time, Liverpool and Adam Lallana struck and what was a perfect symmetry for 85 minutes quickly became a five-minute summation of Solskjaer’s tenure.
Lallana’s strike ensured United have not won when fielding a back five since the 3-1 win over Arsenal back in December 2017.
More worryingly, however, it underlined the same, old problems which have plagued this now dormant giant of European football.
The goal meant that United have now dropped more points from winning positions this season than any other team, except for newly-promoted Aston Villa.
It is also now 21 games out of the last 24 played under Solskjaer that his side have failed to score more than once in all competitions.
They failed to register a single shot on target in the second half and this comes on the back of Marcus Rashford winning the club’s goal of the month competition for September with a penalty – because no other goal was scored in the month.
Put simply, they had Liverpool on the ropes and times and probably should have won this game, if not for their impotence in front of goal.
Put even more simply after the game were the words of Roy Keane: “Just go and get Kane. Just go and get Kane from Spurs. Easy. Just go and get him. What you all staring at?
“He’d score 20 goals a season for you with his eyes shut. They’re in disarray, just go and get him.”
As unlikely as that seems, Harry Kane does fit the bill of Manchester United’s new transfer policy. He’s homegrown, he’s a leader and he will get you goals.
Daniel James was probably United’s best player on the day, and is an example of a good recruitment policy. But he is a 21-year-old novice who only made his first senior appearance 20 months ago in the youngest United team to play their great rivals for 23 years.
And while goalscorer Rashford was bright and, at times, electric, he likes to drift wide, leaving the central striker role unfilled for large periods of the game. His finishing, at this stage, is not good enough for the club to hang their attack on either, making it even more bemusing as to why Romelu Lukaku was not replaced.
Of course, Manchester United should be applauded for doing something which no team has managed to do to Liverpool in any of their last 17 Premier League games in denying them victory but it should not be allowed to cloud the issues at Old Trafford.
They still exist, and for all their heart against Liverpool, they do not show any signs of improving.
As for Mohamed Salah-less Liverpool, they dropped points at Old Trafford last season which was ultimately one of the chances they missed to win the league.
Dropping points again here means they are in danger of the same thing happening again. Liverpool still have to play Manchester City twice and with their advantage sliced to six points it is now in the champions’ hands to win, as well as their own.
As for Liverpool, they dropped points at Old Trafford against Utd last season which ultimately cost them the league – dropping points here again could spark the same thing again. Liverpool still have to play City twice and with their advantage sliced to six points it is now in City’s hands to win, as well as theirs.