‘’It was an emotional game – I believe, very entertaining,” admitted a stoic Jose Mourinho at the post-match press conference, as the curtain was drawn on yet another classic derby at Old Trafford.
“I believe, our players and Liverpool players are very tired because they gave everything they could give until the limits. In terms of quality, it was below the quality of both teams, but in terms of a proper Derby match, it had a lot, lot for the people to enjoy,” Mourinho added.
It’s not often that you’d find yourself in agreement with Manchester United’s head rabble-rouser, but it was an accurate summary of the match that was played out. This was as good as a 1-1 draw as it possibly could be. In fact, if there was a winner either way, one team would be left fuming and be boarding the bus feeling hard done by.
Firstpost looks at three key takeaways from what was built up as a season-defining derby, a battle of footballing philosophies between Jose and Jurgen Klopp, that ended up being less of a chess-match but more like a game of foosball.
Mignolet’s Masters degree
The mess hall of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Flanders, Belgium would have duly propped up their seats as one of their alumnus, Simon Mignolet, masters of political sciences, did his best to diplomatically deflect all the questions that were aimed at him from the inquisitive Manchester United’s frontmen.
The 28-year-old who found himself in the fringes of Klopp’s plan with the arrival of sprightly, Loris Karius, has been showing dignified determination to claim his place on the podium and the high balls which previously undid his best of intentions.
The Belgian’s job was not made easy by the fact that his incorruptible right-hand marathon man in the 2016-2017 campaign, Nathaniel Clyne, had to sit this one out.
What ensued was Manchester United’s forays being funnelled through the right side of his defence, with Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and even to an extent, Paul Pobga, raising enough red flags for a Communist march in the Tiananmen square commemorating Chairman Mao’s birthday.
Jurgen Klopp, with his options limited, threw young right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold like a last roll of the dice, and it took all his spirit and talent to somehow come out it relatively untrampled.
Mignolet’s clenched-jawed reflexes saved Liverpool from a succession of shots, starting with a 20-yard free-kick from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which had the precision and the punch of an armour-piercing bullet; and then a one-handed salute to meet Mkhitaryan.
There were more heroics to follow from the reinstated Liverpool number one, but despite all his best efforts, a late aerial combination near the goal-mouth between the subbed-on Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan was enough for the Swedish marksman to nod on a deserved equaliser in Fergie-time.
While his credentials as a master shot-stopper were never in question, there has been much ado made of Mignolet’s decision-making this season and in the past, but if he keeps doing what he does best, it’ll have to be Karius who’d be taking notes from the sidelines for a while longer.
Sad emojis for Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba, politely put, was ponderous. And, no, not in the Descartes Dualism sort of way. More like, dizzy after the tizzy of a Saturday night party, unable to locate where his Uber is.
Now, imagine if the Uber cab was the ball. Sluggish and without his bearings, the ball just kept speeding past away from him in the adjacent avenue, and all he could do was to raise his hand in frustration calling for it.
It was his mid-flight dab during a routine Liverpool corner that resulted with United conceding a penalty completely against the run of play, and James Milner, Liverpool’s Clark Kent, duly converting his tenth consecutive spot kick.
Pobga could do well and take boring James Milner’s lead and try and focus on getting the simple things right first – notably, keeping possession of the ball.
Prior to the match, Pogba announced (yet another) collaboration, this time with Twitter, #Pogba made him the first Premier League player to have his own emoji. But with the masterful stroke by Klopp to instruct Lallana to keep busy playmaker Michael Carrick, the supply line for the most expensive player in the world was all but cut off.
Pogba took a leaf out of the book of Juan Sebastian Veron as there was a palpable feeling of déjà vu for the Old Trafford faithful, seeing another big money transfer struggle in the hellhound pressing style that Liverpool bring to the derby.
But to be fair to Veron, the muddle of arms and legs in jersey number six looked more like he was channelling the spirit of Eric Demba-Demba instead, as he played perhaps his worst match in a Manchester United shirt. Sad-react emojis only for him.
Zlatan in esteemed company
Not that the superego of Zlatan Ibrahimovic needs any more stroking, but having scored his 14th goal, the all-important equaliser against Liverpool, he finds himself brushing shoulders with legends Dwight Yorke and Ruud van Nistelrooy – the two being the only United players to have scored more goals (15) in their first 20 Premier League games.
Zlatan’s critics will find the stories of his demise, after a leggy start, were greatly exaggerated, as he bobbed home with an instinctive poacher’s finish into the far-left corner, away from Mignolet’s reaching fingers to deservedly draw parity.
There were questions asked, initially as to what this belated move would elicit apart from shirt sales in the far-East, but if the indications are correct, we can assume United can benefit much from his single-minded will to win, much in the manner of his former compatriot and Old Trafford favourite, Henrik Larsson.
Updated Date: Jan 16, 2017 13:46:46 IST