The goals had been flowing for Manchester United in the games preceding their trip to arch-rivals Liverpool, but similar to the previous season Jose Mourinho’s tactics saw him reign in the attacking options. Played at a hectic pace, the fixture once again failed to live up to the hype as United contained Liverpool’s forwards for much of the game.
Before the match, the Centenary stand at Anfield was renamed in honour of the great Kenny Dalglish and it was a game which could have done with his creativity in front of goal. Nearly a quarter of an hour was on the clock before Georginio Wijnaldum produced a left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty box which was comfortably dealt with by David de Gea in the United goal. A few minutes later and a cross from Roberto Firmino was missed by Mo Salah at the near post and flashed harmlessly across the United 6 yard box.
To this point, United had struggled to make any impact as an attacking force, but on one of their rare forays the ball fell to midfielder Nemanja Matic 25 yards out who struck a left foot half volley narrowly over the bar as Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet anxiously looked on.
On 35 minutes the game was to see its best chance as Firminho darted into the box before sending over a low cross. The rapidly arriving Joel Matip managed to quickly adjust his feet to get a good side foot connection from 8 yards out, but any anticipation of the deadlock being broken by the Liverpool fans was to be dented by the brilliance of de Gea. His reflexes in saving low with his left foot were outstanding, once again showing why many view him as one of, if not the best keeper in world football at present. The follow-up fell to Salah who was unusually wasteful on his left foot, placing the ball wide of the post.
Salah tried to test de Gea again with a snap shot from 15 yards but this time it was an easy hold before United created their best opportunity of the game. Sharp one-touch play on the edge of the Liverpool penalty box saw space open up for Romelu Lukaku but his left foot drive was at a comfortable height for Mignolet to block. It would have been 8 goals in as many games for the United striker in what was ultimately a frustrating afternoon without much support up front.
The second half was to be an even tighter affair as United gave a dogged and disciplined defensive performance. It could have been different if Emre Can had converted an inviting cross from Joe Gomez, but he was only able to steer his effort over de Gea’s bar from 6 yards out. It was a sign of things to come for the remainder of the half, one in which neither team were able to fashion one chance between them on target.
Salah worked the ball on to his left foot midway through the half before trying to curl one of his trademark efforts into the top corner, but on this occasion was wide of the mark. Yet chances were thin on the ground as Liverpool tried to find a way through the organised United back line. United sent on Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard to try and nick the win with their pace but to no avail, although a point at Anfield will have been a welcome one for manager Mourinho.
Liverpool against Manchester United is one of the fiercest rivalries in the Premier League despite both teams being from different cities. Apart from Liverpool's second-place finish 3 seasons ago, there has been a widening gulf between the two sides in recent years that Jurgen Klopp will be looking to close at the start of this season.
After a disappointing follow up to their magnificent title challenge, Liverpool once again finds itself without the pressures of mid-week European football to tire them out. Whilst they lost talented winger Raheem Sterling to rivals Manchester City over the summer, they picked up a strong and aggressive replacement in Christian Benteke who has already been in sublime goalscoring form in the pre-season. Rogers has also continued his process of buying promising English youngsters and you would expect to see Danny Ings and Nathaniel Clyne get game time in the big derby match.
There will be few selection problems for Rogers as all of his players came back from their pre-season tours fit and injury free. Rogers also kept the last few weeks for friendlies against English teams to avoid lots of air miles, a factor that might come into play as the two heavyweights go head to head.
United have undergone a certain amount of turbulence since the departure of Alex Ferguson, but the experience and tactical know-how of Louis Van Gaal is starting to be seen in the way that the team plays. They have made some big signings over the summer including Memphis Depay to join Wayne Rooney up front and a real boost in the midfield with the capture of German World Cup winner Bastian Schweinesteiger. If they can all gel quickly, there is real potential in the squad to challenge the imperious Chelsea.
Before the big match against Liverpool, numerous issues on and off the field need to be resolved. There is a lot of drama over who will be the first choice goalkeeper, with natural selection David De Gea being dropped for the season opener against Tottenham amongst a rumoured move to Real Madrid and second choice keeper Victor Valdes being put up for sale after refusing to play for the reserves. Whilst Sergio Romero performed well, there is still time for Van Gaal to pull a better replacement out.