Sunday 20 October 2019 7:37 pm

Man Utd 1-1 Liverpool: Five things we learned as the leaders stumbled

It would be a stretch to call this a slip for Liverpool, yet it was a stumble of sorts in their quest to become champions of England for the first time in 30 years.

Instead of equalling Manchester City’s record of 18 consecutive Premier League wins, they had to battle back from Marcus Rashford’s opener to salvage a draw through Adam Lallana and ensure that their lead at the top of the table was only trimmed to six points.

Liverpool have seldom had it easy at Old Trafford, where Arsenal’s 49-match unbeaten sequence also ran aground 15 years ago, and they were hindered by the absence of Mohamed Salah.

Read more: Inside the goal drought dragging Man Utd to the wrong end of the table

But history is one thing; on current form they might reasonably believe they should beat a United side who could feasibly have ended the weekend in the relegation zone.

Solksjaer’s shot in the arm

United, too, will have mixed feelings when they reflect on this scrappy but compelling contest.

Conceding five minutes from time was a bitter pill for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side, who were hanging on at the end.

But given the talk of crisis hanging over the club before this match, a disciplined and lively display that halted the leaders’ 100 per cent record can only be seen as a much-needed shot in the arm for Solskjaer’s tenure.

Revitalised Rashford

If Rashford’s struggles in front of goal have been symptomatic of United’s wider malaise, then his encouraging performance against Liverpool equally took his team up several notches.

Having enjoyed a confidence-boosting night for England in Bulgaria last week, he looked a different man here and posed an early threat with a surging run to the byline.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United scores his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford on October 20, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Rashford put United in front and played with renewed confidence. Credit: Getty

Inevitably it was Rashford who struck for United, touching James’s cross past Alisson after his smart movement deceived Virgil van Dijk, and he might have had a second late on when he cut in from the left and fired narrowly wide.

Klopp finds answer in Lallana

Liverpool were oddly out of sorts in the first half, perhaps in part due to Salah’s ankle injury, which saw Sadio Mane take up his role on the right of the attack and Divock Origi start on the left.

But Jurgen Klopp dipped into his attacking options after the break, throwing on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana and then Naby Keita in search of the breakthrough.

It finally came through Lallana, who scored his first goal since May 2017 when Andy Robertson’s cross from the left evaded all bodies in a crowded penalty area and he stole in to tap in at the far post.

VAR watch

Big Premier League matches rarely seem to pass without some debate over the use of the video assistant referee (VAR) and this one was no exception.

Rashford’s goal was allowed to stand despite suggestions of a foul by Victor Lindelof on Origi at the start of the move, with referee Martin Atkinson deemed to have had a clear view.

Moments later, meanwhile, Mane had a would-be equaliser chalked off by VAR just before the interval for handball – although there was little contentious about that call.

Main image credit: Getty