Relief for Ten Hag as Man Utd frustrate Liverpool to snatch defiant Premier League draw

Jurgen Klopp's side fluff chance to go top of table as Red Devils take some of pressure off Dutch manager

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Liverpool missed a chance to return to the top of the Premier League as troubled Manchester United finally showed some fighting spirit in a gritty 0-0 draw on Sunday.

United had Diogo Dalot sent off for dissent in the final seconds of stoppage time at Anfield, but Liverpool had long since run out of ideas in the face of the visitors' defiant display.

Having started the weekend in top spot, Liverpool kicked off in third place after wins for Arsenal and Aston Villa earlier on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp's side dominated a dour clash against their hated rivals, but lacked the cutting edge required to extend their winning run in the league to four matches.

Liverpool sit in second place, one point behind leaders Arsenal ahead of their summit meeting with the Gunners at Anfield on Saturday.

While Liverpool were left frustrated after failing to win at home for the first time in 12 games in all competitions, for United the result was a step in the right direction after another dismal week.

Ravaged by injuries and missing suspended captain Bruno Fernandes, United showed the kind of tenacity absent for much of a turbulent campaign.

Last weekend's home humbling by Bournemouth was followed by a 1-0 defeat against Bayern Munich on Tuesday that condemned United to a meek Champions League group stage exit.

Erik ten Hag's team were back at Anfield for the first time since being hammered there 7-0 in March, an abject surrender that ranked among the most humiliating defeats in the club's history.

They remain without a win at Anfield since 2016, but after so many chastening visits over the last seven years, the under-fire Ten Hag left grateful for small mercies as United avoided more embarrassment.

In keeping with the toxic nature of English football's most bitter rivalry, Liverpool were forced to "utterly condemn" the fans who bombarded United's team bus with missiles before the game, leading to a window being smashed by a glass bottle.

That ugly scene was followed by a scrappy game equally short on appealing qualities.

Liverpool have held the upper hand over United in recent years, but a combination of sloppy passing and obdurate defending halted their progress.

Without a goal in his last nine games, Darwin Nunez couldn't convert Mohamed Salah's lobbed cross as he stretched in vain at the far post.

Salah has enjoyed tormenting United in the past and he nearly bagged another goal at their expense when his close-range effort was deflected wide after Andre Onana failed to hold Nunez's header.

Liverpool's territorial dominance produced eight corners in the first 30 minutes, with Virgil van Dijk almost turning one into the opening goal as his header was pushed over by Onana.

Ibrahima Konate headed wastefully over from yet another Liverpool corner, but despite Liverpool's sustained pressure, United were organised enough to keep Klopp's men at bay.

A frustrating half for Liverpool ended fittingly when Salah's strike from a good position inside the area was comfortably saved by Onana.

It was a similar pattern after the interval as Liverpool controlled possession and United stubbornly refused to crack.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's low drive ruffled the side-netting before Onana saved Salah's curler.

Klopp moved Alexander-Arnold into midfield and the right-back went close with a first-time shot that flashed inches wide from the edge of the area.

United striker Rasmus Hojlund was anonymous for long periods and when he finally did get a sight of goal, the Dane shot straight at Alisson Becker after Scott McTominay's pass gave him a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock.

Onana made a good stop to deny Salah after the Egyptian advanced menacingly, while Luis Diaz's effort was turned away by Dalot.

Dalot's positive contribution was followed by a needless one when he was shown a second yellow card for berating referee Michael Oliver while disputing a throw-in.

After the match, Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk, asked by Sky Sports if he was feeling frustrated, said: "100%. If you see how we played the game, we had most of the ball and created some opportunities. There was only one team trying to win the game.

"We want to win every game of course and that is why it is frustrating. Sometimes we shot too easy and could have passed on the overlap. The right decision was sometimes lacking.

"We carry on of course but it is frustrating because we were superior in all aspects. In the end they are buzzing with a point and we are disappointed with a point.

"Obviously they are not in the best phase. Coming here you are wary of the threat we have. We should have won it today. We have to learn from certain situations and I know we will.

"Last year we didn't come in with a good feeling towards the Manchester United game but we won the game convincingly, but last year doesn't count now."

Manchester United captain Scott McTominay said: "For a start we have a number of injuries which doesn't help the squad or help the rhythm of playing a regular team, but we knew it would be tough today.

"We had to stay calm and stick together and we had moments in the game where we had chances and could have hurt them.

"We're disappointed we couldn't make it more of a game and create more opportunities. The boys will be pleased not to lose but also definitely not happy we didn't win."

Updated: December 17, 2023, 7:57 PM