After weeks of build-up and hype, Liverpool and Manchester United delivered a fairly tepid stalemate at Anfield. A few players were excellent, but the majority were average and some were just below par. Here are the player ratings based on how I assessed the performances.
Loris Karius 5
Karius didn’t have much to do thanks to United’s sporadic attacks. Parried an awkward cross from Ashley Young away from danger in the first half after dealing with some long range shots straight at him. Could have been embarrassed after a terrible pass in the second half but for Zlatan Ibrahimović being offside. Decision-making for Zlatan’s open header when he just stood on the line didn’t inspire confidence.
Nathaniel Clyne 7
Didn’t face much of a defensive challenge, but whenever he had to, he completely nullified Ashley Young. Made some excellent runs on the right flank in the first half, but was criminally ignored by Liverpool’s midfield.
Joel Matip 8
Continued a fine start to his career in the Premier League. Matip is the centre back that inspires confidence for Liverpool at the back. Comfortably dealt with Ibrahimović and Paul Pogba, both, on the ground and in the air. Almost 90% passing accuracy, the highlight being a confident run and pass that set up a chance for Emre Can to open the scoring.
Dejan Lovren 8
It’s safe to say we are finally seeing the Dejan Lovren that cost Liverpool 20 million in the summer of 2014. The Croatian was a colossus at the back with four interceptions and four clearances. In addition, there is growing evidence that he is one of the best passers from the back as he hit seven accurate long passes, one of which, a delightful ball that found Lallana in space on the left flank.
James Milner 7
Liverpool’s Mr. Consistent was at it again with a solid display. Linked up beautifully with Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana in the attacking third. His crosses would have yielded opportunities against most other defences. Didn’t hesitate to compete physically, though was troubled on a few occasions by Rashford on the flanks.
Emre Can 7
A decent first start of the league campaign for the young German. Like the rest of Liverpool’s midfield, was guilty of ceding possession too cheaply in the first twenty minutes. Once he got his bearings in order, Can displayed why he is more likely to be in the starting eleven than not. Held his own in a physical confrontation with Pogba. His ball-playing ability set up Liverpool’s transitions in the second half and almost scored after holding off three defenders, but was denied by David de Gea’s smart reflexes.
Jordan Henderson 6
The captain improved a lot in the second half, asking for the ball in tight spaces and finding his teammates with some excellent passes. The first half however, displayed some of his worst attributes, too rushed with his runs and careless in possession. By standards set in the past month, an average outing for Henderson.
Philippe Coutinho 7
Didn’t look comfortable in the first half an hour of the game when he was pinned in his own half, as the nuances of a deeper role didn’t appear to suit him. Got into his groove as he took more advanced positions and was clearly the most potent threat for the Reds. Could have scored another of his famous screamers but for de Gea’s brilliance, though curiously still indecisive with his shooting when actually inside the box.
Roberto Firmino 6
Anfield’s other magician tried his best. Firmino hustled and pressed like only he can, but wasn’t able to get much change from United’s tight defence. The Brazilian also contributed in the air, heading a cross at de Gea and won some crucial headers in the middle of the park.
Sadio Mané 4
Easily the Senegalese attacker’s worst outing since joining Liverpool. Mane lost the ball too many times, tried too much with his dribbles and simply couldn’t contribute in a meaningful way. Completely neutralized by Daley Blind’s composure and game intelligence.
Daniel Sturridge 5
Virtually anonymous while on the pitch. A performance to reignite the debate over whether the striker really fits in Jurgen Klopp’s system. Had some nice touches of the ball and made some good runs in space, but nothing to suggest he would be decisive on the night.
Adam Lallana 6
Seemed to immediately bring a lift to Liverpool’s play when he came on in the second half. His introduction coincided with a 10-minute spell when Liverpool seemed most likely to score. Tried his best with some clever turns and sharp passes, but United’s defence was not to be breached.
David de Gea 9
The Spanish number one didn’t actually have much to do, but what he did was brilliant. As Jim Beglin said on the international feed, you can see why he has been United’s player of the year, three seasons in a row. Not only were his saves crucial, he made the two saves look routine when they were anything but. Coutinho’s reaction when denied said it all.
Antonio Valencia 7
Valencia hardly ventured forward except for a few forays early in the game. The Ecuadorian had a defend first remit and largely succeeded. At times struggled to cope with the triple threat of Coutinho, Firmino and Milner, but came to the fore in the really crucial moments, as proven with a superb last-ditch tackle to deny Firmino a clean shot at goal.
Eric Bailly 8
Another assured display by the summer signing from Villarreal. The Ivorian had seven clearances, six interceptions, two tackles and one blocked shot. Numbers don’t tell the whole tale, but when they are maintained with such consistency, they do contribute to a growing case for what is increasingly looking like a transfer market success story.
Chris Smalling 7
There are not quite Ferdinand and Vidic, but Bailly and Smalling has a nice ring for United’s fans. Smalling was unbeatable in the air and complemented Bailly perfectly with his intelligent positioning resulting in a match-leading 13 clearances.
Daley Blind 8
Another performance to suggest that it is no certainty that Luke Shaw will get his place back in the starting eleven. He was hardly troubled by Mané. How many left-backs has that been said about this season? Took United’s only corner and his outswinger almost led to Marouane Fellaini scoring.
Ander Herrera 8
A supreme performance in a defensive midfield position that is supposedly not his natural game. Herrera pressed superbly in the first half an hour as United looked to get Liverpool out of their rhythm. When Liverpool started playing on the front foot, Herrera seemed to be everywhere, tackling and intercepting at will. Easily the best midfielder on the park.
Marouane Fellaini 5
It’s hard to figure out exactly what Fellaini’s role was in the game. Hardly contributed in midfield, except for some sideways passing. In contrast to Herrera, the game seemed to bypass him completely. A presentable chance of Blind’s corner was headed wide. For how much longer will he command a place in the starting eleven?
Paul Pogba 5
A slight of foot followed by a delicious cross that should have resulted in Ibrahimovic scoring. Other than that, was completely shackled. Supposed to play an advanced role in support of Ibrahimović, but simply couldn’t get past the double pivot of Henderson and Can.
Marcus Rashford 5
By recent standards, a fairly underwhelming display by one of United’s best players this season. That he still had the maturity to help defensively with two tackles and two interceptions is a testament to his continuing development and growing game intelligence.
Ashley Young 4
Exactly why did he get his first start in eons? Barely challenged Clyne and couldn’t link up with either Ibrahimovic or Pogba. Helped defensively, but for a man of his experience, picked up a petulant yet deserved yellow card for remonstrating with the referee.
Zlatan Ibrahimović 4
The Swede had a very poor outing. There was a lot of talk about Ibrahimović dominating in the air, but he couldn’t win much against Matip and Lovren. His link-up play was substandard and then missed the best chance of the match with a bizarre header when he had the goal at his mercy. It’s now four games without a goal in the Premier League for United’s starting forward.