Liverpool and Manchester United played out a punctilious draw at Anfield with Mourinho’s game-plan to stop Liverpool from playing and frustrating the home crowd paying off.
It was a game begging to be ignited and remains to be after the final whistle, a game where defence stood up and space for the creative players was at premium. It was expected Mourinho will field his side the way he did, a 4-3-3 with Fellaini and Herrera as midfield two and Pogba as no 10 on few occasions behind Ibrahimovic. Ashley Young and Rashford were given the responsibilities to inject pace from wing areas and catch Liverpool fullbacks off guard. On the other hand, Klopp made two forced changes in the midfield with Wijnaldum and Lallana unfit for the game, Can and Sturridge replaced the duo. For Liverpool, it was more 4-2-3-1 rather than 4-3-3 as Coutinho was mostly roaming behind the front three rather sitting back with other two.
Now, let’s turn our attention towards the tactics board and look as to how United were able to stop Liverpool from playing through the lines as they like to :-
The above image shows the defensive and usual shape of United when Liverpool had possession, it was more like banks two of 4 and 5 consisting of defensive and tracking back players respectively, Pogba was given the license to roam around Ibrahimovic but the Frenchman wasn’t too assured in possession so had to do more of defensive duties rather than causing problems to the opposition goal.
Herrera had a good game in that defensive midfield position, he broke up many attacks and was the one who started many closing downs in that central midfield area which lead to mistakes. It was his tireless work rate along with Fellaini in the centre of the pitch that enabled United to control the game tactically and give no spaces to likes of Coutinho, Firmino and Mane.
There were very few occasions where United had a counter-attacking chance but in possession, Pogba joined Ibrahimovic as furthest forward players creating chances and pressing Liverpool centre-backs.
All in all, the change of shape worked a treat for Jose as he clearly came for a point at Anfield and succeeded in doing so. The extra midfield body enabled him to go about his reactive counter-attacking game plan and dulling the game.
Next, let’s hop towards another tactics board and analyse as to how Liverpool could’ve used more width in their attacking play to open up United’s defence :-
The above image shows how Liverpool mainly attacked during the game, we can clearly see the amount of players there in that central area of the pitch. The likes of Coutinho, Firmino, Mane and Sturridge were at times too central and yet far away from each other, so the passing and inter-connectivity wasn’t there.
Sturridge was cut off for most parts of the game, the reason being as we saw earlier United flooded the central area meaning no room for Coutinho or either of Can or Henderson from deeper area to penetrate and find the striker or either of the front three.
What Liverpool could’ve done better is made use of the width and stretch the game as wide as they can. The kind of possession home side had, they could’ve done more favour to themselves by bringing the fullbacks into the game in attacking areas, there were times when United fullbacks got sucked in centrally to mark the forward line, switching play and making Young and Rashford isolated defensively would have brought different rewards, from crosses Sturridge could’ve been more involved too.
In all honesty, it’s Manchester United who will be more satisfied by this point and the plan they setup was successfully implemented. For Liverpool, the problem of not being able to break down deep defending side continues to haunt them, the only positive is they’ve their first clean sheet of the season despite the keeper Karius being shaky between the posts.
While United are still a work in progress under Jose, Liverpool are still not fully at it, as before, there are few areas that still needs ironing predominantly the solution to break down a physical deep defending side.
By Mizgan on 18th October, 2016
Twitter – @mizgans
You can read the preview article of this game below :-