Half time: Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United
45+3 mins: That’s all for now. Liverpool took the lead before they started playing, and have failed to extend it since – though they’ve come pretty close.
45+1 mins: Into stoppage time, of which there’ll be a couple more minutes. Wijnaldum passes to Mane inside the area, but his first touch takes him away from goal and again defenders get over to challenge.
45 mins: Chance! United’s defence falls apart like so much sodden toilet paper. Salah passes to Mane, who is in all sorts of space. It’s not a great pass, forcing Mane to stall his run and giving Lindelof a chance to recover, but he still pushes it ahead of himself and lashes a shot goalwards from just inside the area. De Gea saves with his right boot.
44 mins: Pereira shoots from 25 yards, and Allison catches.
43 mins: Robertson boots the ball upfield, and with Salah lurking behind him Shaw raises his right foot, volleys gently over his shoulder, spins and is away. One for the showreel there.
41 mins: Chance for United! Martial curls an excellent cross to Wan-Bissaka, who half-volleys across to Pereira, who just needs to touch it in at the far post but can’t quite reach it! “The reaction of the United players following what seemed a perfectly legit challenge by van Dijk was an unwelcome reminder of the days of Roy Keane,” fumes Tony Wawryk. “Players shouting in the ref’s face, pointing, manhandling – they lost their heads. Half the team should have been booked and de Gea sent off. Shocking behaviour.”
40 mins: A moment of promise for United as Pereira runs into the area, but for some reason James steps across to tackle him.
37 mins: This is your traditional hurly-burly, wild and error-strewn old-fashioned English top-flight fare. Wijnaldum is playing excellently, having been pretty much immune so far.
36 mins: Liverpool have the ball in the net again, but this time the linesman’s got a flag up! It’s a fabulous through-ball from Oxlade-Chamberlain to Wijnaldum, who nudges it past De Gea, but he was six inches offside.
34 mins: United are experimenting with different methods of losing the ball on the edge of their own area.
31 mins: Van Dijk did look over his left shoulder to check De Gea’s position before he jumped. Perhaps without that the goal would have stood. He certainly didn’t make much contact with De Gea.
28 mins: After a promising start, United are wobbling like Weebles. Firmino tries to play through to Salah, but it’s just about intercepted.
NO GOAL! Still Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United
Gary Neville is furious about this, insisting Van Dijk’s challenge was fair. Both players jumped, the Dutchman getting high enough to stop De Gea catching. The ball rolled left, was played back to Firmino, whose curling finish was fabulous. Apparently the VAR decided Van Dijk made no attempt to play the ball, but it would have landed on his head if De Gea hadn’t reached over it to flap it nowhere much.
GOAL! Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United (Firmino, 25 mins)
United are furious! They think Van Dijk fouled De Gea in the build-up, and VAR will have a look.
24 mins: Chance! Firmino ‘s pass deflects off Fred to Mane, inside the area, who tries to take a touch, takes a bad one, and gives Shaw the chance to clear.
22 mins: An excellent sliding challenge from Wan-Bissaka on Robertson, but Liverpool have another corner. Williams finds himself dealing with Van Dijk again, but this time it’s headed clear at the near post.
20 mins: Andreas Pereira goes down, for no obvious reason. The physio swiftly persuades him to get up again.
19 mins: “You posted at 5 minutes that Matip passed to James. Tough to do when he’s on the bench for the other team,” writes Joe Pearson. Ah, ye olde Matic-Matip brainfart. I’ve edited it out now.
18 mins: Liverpool win a free-kick on the right, and Van Dijk nearly gets on the end of this one too. Maguire beats him to it, at the expense of a corner.
17 mins: Liverpool have played with no rhythm, but if that’s how United are going to defend set-pieces they don’t really need to.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United (Van Dijk, 14 mins)
Liverpool win a right-wing corner, Alexander-Arnold swings it into the middle and Van Dijk is somehow being marked by Brandon Williams. Van Dijk jumps, Williams ducks, and the header ripples the net!
13 mins: By the look of the red skies over Anfield this evening, local shepherds are in for a good night.
Indeed, Matip is in a Premier League squad for the first time since the last United game in October, and Fabinho for the first time since 23 November.
10 mins: Robertson slides in to prod the ball away from James, who had looked destined to win the race. James doesn’t seem to understand where the ball went or why he hasn’t got a free-kick for it.
8 mins: Wijnaldum heads a bouncing ball, which Matic tries to beat him to with a boot. The Serbian doesn’t get anything on the ball and not much on the player either, but Wijnaldum makes the most of it and the referee gets a card out.
7 mins: The corner isn’t up to much, and as Liverpool try to recycle the ball Alexander-Arnold shanks a left-footed crossfield pass out of play.
6 mins: Liverpool attack, but they too hit a poor pass, which forces Mane out wide. He lays back to Robertson, whose cross deflects behind for a corner.
5 mins: Matic sends James scurrying into space on the right, but his low centre is cut out by Van Dijk before it can reach Martial. That looked a decent chance, but the cross was not great.
4 mins: United have started encouragingly. They win a free-kick on the right, which Pereira crosses in and Van Dijk cuts out. “Please Roy, what would you do in Ole’s place?” wonders Mary Waltz. “Your top scorer is out. Your two best midfielders, McTominay and Pogba, can’t or won’t play. Your facing the best team in the UK and Europe on their home turf where they have not lost for 51 fixtures. You parked the bus at Old Trafford and earned a tie. the best result against Liverpool this season.what other choice does Ole have?” Yeah, but hats.
1 min: United are indeed fielding a back four. Alisson scuffs a pass to Robertson, which goes straight out of play for a United throw-in.
All handshakes and preambles complete, it’s time for action. Well, nearly.
Out come the players! Not long to go now!
There weren’t exactly a lot of silly hats among the United players pre-match. I think only Martial and Shaw were hatted, and even they were wearing beanie hats, which I think is a straightforward, no-messing practical winter hat, rather than a silly one.
There was talk of United playing a back five, with Shaw a bonus additional centre-half. But a four of Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire and Shaw appears to be warming up together, so that’s probably what they’re going to do.
Here’s a snippet from Jurgen Klopp:
Our fans know that we take each game 100% serious. So we can’t be even more serious today. It’s all good. In the last game [in October] I didn’t see us there in the first half. Here today we can be a completely different animal, and that’s what we have to show. And then, it’s a football game against a strong opponent and we want to win the game.
Matt Dony is worried. Nay, terrified: “Having spent so many of my formative years watching United hoovering up trophies and swaggering to titles, they’ve got me in a kind of Stockholm Syndrome situation,” he writes. “On the one hand, the way they’ve fallen apart in the post-Fergie years is obviously enormously entertaining. But on the other hand, it just seems somehow wrong and unsettling to see them playing listless, goes-nowhere football, and flirting with mid-table mediocrity. They still have some lovely players to watch, but my word they also have some average ones. And yet, I’m terrified about this game. They’re still ‘United’. Liverpool’s run has to end sometime; I have no problem with that. But please, not against United. They still bang on about ending The Invincibles’ run. Having little else to cheer about these days, I simply can’t imagine how many ties we’ll have to hear about today should they win.”
Roy Keane, part of Sky’s team, is already angry. “I can’t say what he said off-air,” says Graeme Souness. Here’s what Keane said on air:
When I see people like Shaw coming back into the team … the nearer we’re getting to kick-off the more worried I’m getting actually. I think I was fine about two hours ago. Do you know what, I look at the players, I look at them getting warmed up, and I see their silly hats. Do you know what, it’s as if their mindset is let’s not be beaten. That negative talk already. I’m worried, I have to say.
Here are the highlights of Solskjaer’s pre-match interview with Sky:
He got a couple of knocks again and jolts when he came on against Wolverhampton. He’s aggravated his back, he’s had some trouble before, and of course we’re going to give him time to recover and rest before we put him back on the pitch. He’s always recovered quickly before, so let’s hope he does that again. I wouldn’t expect him to be back in the next few weeks. I think we’ve got a way that … we have to come to a difficult place, to play against a very good team, and we have to try to maximise the players we’ve got. I think we’ve got a chance to give them some trouble with the way we’re playing.
Burnley have indeed beaten Leicester by two goals to one goal. John Brewin has the aftermath:
Meanwhile, some news breaks about Marcus Rashford, who according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be out “for weeks” with his back injury.
It’s looking like another bad weekend for the Liverpool-chasers: Manchester City having drawn yesterday, Leicester are currently 2-1 down at Burnley, with nine minutes (plus stoppages) remaining.
So Liverpool play their familiar first-choice XI. United, meanwhile, play both Brandon Williams and Luke Shaw, presumably as some kind of Alexander-Arnold neutralising double-left-back combo.
Team news is in, and without further ado, or really any ado at all, here it is!
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane. Subs: Fabinho, Adrian, Minamino, Lallana, Origi, Matip, Jones.
Man Utd: De Gea, Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Williams, Fred, Matic, James, Andreas Pereira, Shaw, Martial. Subs: Bailly, Jones, Mata, Lingard, Dalot, Romero, Greenwood.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
As you survey Liverpool’s path to the title in search of potential banana skins, there’s really not much to see between now and the trip to Manchester City in early April. After Wolves away next week (potential danger there as well, although Wolves’ home record isn’t all that great) they have a run of league games against the teams currently (in league position order, rather than chronological) 13th, 16th, 16th again, 17th, 19th and 20th. Win all of their games between now and the end of that run and they will be at the very minimum 19 points ahead with 27 available, and in need of three wins from their last nine to seal the deal.
In other words, it’s die or do now for Liverpool. Today they play the only team to have taken points off them this season, in October’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. If Liverpool are to win the title by a gazillion points, one thing that might make the experience very fractionally less sweet is if they have failed to beat Manchester United along the way. Today’s the day to rectify that.
Here’s some pre-match reading: