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Dublin: 6°C Sunday 17 January 2021

United and Liverpool play out dour scoreless draw amid injury-laden opening half

Mata, Herrera, Lingard and Firmino all picked up injuries in a disjointed opening 45 minutes.

Chris Smalling rues a missed chance late on in the game.
Chris Smalling rues a missed chance late on in the game.
Image: Martin Rickett

LIVERPOOL RETURNED TO the Premier League summit despite being held to a 0-0 draw by bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford in a match that was marred by first-half injuries to four players.

After days of anticipation and excitement, the match swiftly descended into farce in the first period, as Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Roberto Firmino and Jesse Lingard were all forced off injured, and the match struggled to recover from an entertainment perspective.

The medical staff were rather less busy in the second half and that allowed Liverpool to increase the pressure, generally dominating against a United effectively playing with 10 men due to Marcus Rashford struggling with a knock.

But the Reds could not take advantage, with United arguably happy to hold on to the draw which sees Ole Gunnar Solskjaer set a new record points haul for a manager in his first 10 Premier League games, taking him on to 26 points.

Manchester United v Liverpool - Premier League - Old Trafford Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (bottom centre) goes down after picking up an injury at Old Trafford. Source: Martin Rickett

After losing Nemanja Matic to injury in the build-up to the match, the first 25 minutes were nightmarish for United in terms of fitness, losing Herrera and Mata, while Rashford was also in pain.

Liverpool did not remain unscathed, as they lost Firmino just past the half-hour mark having appeared to roll his ankle.

Lingard – Mata’s replacement despite being deemed not fit enough to start following a hamstring injury – then seemed to aggravate that problem when attempting to round Alisson for the only real chance of a bizarre first period, forcing Solskjaer to replace him with Alexis Sanchez.

Liverpool looked to turn things up after the break, but United’s defence provided an excellent platform.

A rare opportunity fell to them 20 minutes from time, as Georginio Wijnaldum headed just wide from a corner.

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Manchester United v Liverpool - Premier League - Old Trafford Solskjaer may be happy with a point considering the first-half upheaval to his squad. Source: Martin Rickett

United briefly thought they had the lead when Joel Matip put into his own goal in the 75th minute, but Chris Smalling – who played the ball into the danger zone – was offside, and that proved to be the final chance at either end, as Liverpool dropped points for the third Premier League game in four.

 Injury Crisis? 

With three forced off and Rashford also clearly suffering, adding to the absences of Anthony Martial, Matic and Marcos Rojo, it is fair to say United are in a dire position with injuries.

It is an entirely realistic that Solskjaer could be without five of his six first-choice midfield and forward options for their next games.

For Liverpool, the point is enough to move them past Manchester City at the summit but it will be seen as a chance missed in the title race.

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