Manchester United blunted Liverpool’s prolific attack as England’s two most illustrious teams toughed out a 0-0 draw in the Premier League on Monday.
United manager Jose Mourinho’s tactics of containment worked well at Anfield, with Liverpool failing to score in a home league game for the first time in exactly 10 months. United was the opponent then, too, but under Louis van Gaal.
When Liverpool’s players did break free of United’s fierce pressing, they found David de Gea in fine form, with the Spain goalkeeper producing excellent saves to deny Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho in the second half.
Liverpool started the league’s eighth round of games with the joint-most goals of any team and had scored nine times in its two home matches so far. The hosts improved in the second half, especially after fit-again midfielder Adam Lallana came on as a substitute, but were never going to get the three-goal victory that would have put them top.
United stayed in seventh place, five points off the lead.
What is often regarded as the biggest fixture in English soccer failed to live up to its billing and much of that was down to Mourinho.
His United team has been accused of lacking intensity this season compared to its likely title rivals but his players discovered their energy here, harassing Liverpool into mistakes in an error-strewn first half that featured no clear-cut chances. Holding midfielder Ander Herrera was particularly effective.
Referee Anthony Taylor played a central role in a niggly half, somehow holding off from brandishing a yellow card until the 43rd minute after a series of fouls from both teams. Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the field at halftime wagging his finger at Taylor, with the only two bookings falling to United players — Eric Bailly and Ashley Young (for dissent).
Liverpool’s two shots represented its joint-lowest total in the first half of a Premier League home game. For Mourinho, it was job half done.
Ibrahimovic had the first real chance of the game, directing his header across the face of goal instead of at goal in the 54th.
After that, Liverpool was on top. De Gea went down low to his right to palm aside Can’s left-foot shot and produced the moment of the match by clawing away Coutinho’s curling shot from 30 meters in the 71st.
Wayne Rooney started on the bench for United for the third straight game. He came on in the 77th minute, but had little effect.