Jurgen Klopp is adamant Liverpool's recent woes in attack are simply down to poor decision-making in the final third rather than teams getting wise to their style of play.

The Reds head into Thursday's Premier League clash with Burnley having failed to score in any of their previous three top-flight games.

They beat Crystal Palace 7-0 just over a month ago but have since won just three points in the league, scoring once and seeing Manchester United rise to the summit. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men can return to the top with a win over Fulham on Wednesday.

Much of the focus on Liverpool's attacking issues has somewhat unsurprisingly been centred on Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, all of whom were disappointing in the 0-0 draw with United.

But Klopp seemed irritated when it was suggested a factor could be that other teams have learnt how to play against them.

"You can make of it what you want, it's football, it's not a new game, we didn't invent it new and then surprise the teams last year and they were like, 'oh my god, so that's how they attack'," Klopp said in his news conference.

"No team is to defend for a whole game, well, maybe a whole game but not then the next one. Other teams know what we're doing, last year they knew what we were doing, but we were still difficult to defend.

"Most of the good chances - we didn't miss them because they defended them, we missed because we didn't use them, so that is a massive difference. There are chances where we just have to finish them off better. That's the reason.

"Teams defend against us with all they have, that's not new. So, at the moment we have an 'offensive crisis', next headline will be everyone knows how to play against us.


"You smile as you ask the question but you know exactly what this kind of headline creates and what people are thinking, but it's normal. It's the situation we are in.

"I think I heard somewhere I have to rebuild this team? The world is a crazy place, not only because of the pandemic. It's because no one has time anymore, in football we know that.

"I've been in football long enough to know you never get time, you only get time if you make steps forward.

"After last season we haven't made steps forward, we know that, but we only make steps forward by playing not talking."

Of his first-choice attacking trio, Firmino seems to be the one receiving most of the criticism – after all, the Brazilian has only scored five times in the Premier League this season.

His goals (0.26) and assists (0.15) per 90 minutes this term across all competitions are the worst he has posted at Liverpool under Klopp, while his chance creation frequency is also at a low of 1.2 every 90 minutes.

It was put to Klopp that Liverpool have been less effective with regards to pressing this term, though Klopp dismissed the importance of that.

When asked how Firmino can get back on track, Klopp said: "By training, let's start with that, that's how it is.

"We didn't score a lot of goals in these games, it doesn't mean Roberto's performance dropped or whatever the counter press stats say – in this game it was not the case because a player wasn't there or we didn't do it well enough, we had a lot of great counter-pressing in this game, in other games before we press they may play a long ball, that's how it is.

"It's not always about your game, it's about the other team's approach as well, but we know we're not exactly where we want to be, there are some reasons but that’s not important, it's that we have to fight and we do."

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are three of the superstars who have been voted into UEFA's Men's Team of the Year by fans, with Virgil van Dijk also included despite missing a chunk of 2020 through injury.

Fans had from November 30 to January 6 to cast their votes, and a host of predictable names made the cut, though Champions League winners Bayern Munich dominate.

There are five players from Bayern's treble-winning 2019-20 in the team, including Robert Lewandowski – winner of The Best FIFA Men's Player of the Year award – and Thiago Alcantara, who has since joined Liverpool.

The other Reds player in the side is Van Dijk even though the Dutch centre-back has only played five Premier League games this season due to a serious knee injury.

However, earlier in the year he inspired Liverpool to their first league title since 1990.

Ronaldo was named in the side for a 15th time after helping Juventus to another Scudetto.

Messi earned his 12th inclusion despite failing to help Barcelona to LaLiga success in what was a largely difficult year for the Blaugrana and their captain.

UEFA confirmed the final selection for the women's team as well, with six players from Lyon's Women's Champions League-winning squad in the side.

 

Men's Team of the Year:

Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany); Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich and Germany), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool and Netherlands), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich and Canada); Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich/Liverpool and Spain), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium); Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil).

Women's Team of the Year:

Sarah Bouhaddi (Lyon and France); Lucy Bronze (Lyon/Manchester City and England), Kadeisha Buchanan (Lyon and Canada), Wendie Renard (Lyon and France), Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea and Sweden); Kheira Hamraoui (Barcelona and France), Amandine Henry (Lyon and France), Delphine Cascarino (Lyon and France), Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir (Wolfsburg/Lyon and Iceland); Danielle van de Donk (Arsenal and Netherlands), Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg/Chelsea and Denmark).

Manchester United's 0-0 draw away to Liverpool on Sunday left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer "disappointed", the Norwegian adamant they did enough to end the Reds' remarkable long-standing unbeaten home run.

But there were two silver linings; firstly, United remained top of the Premier League, and secondly, the point preserved their own exceptional streak without a defeat.

It ensured United's run without a loss away from home in the Premier League would surpass a full year, having last suffered a domestic defeat on the road at Anfield on January 19, 2020.

Liverpool's win on that occasion took them 30 points clear of United in the table, but the obvious gulf between the two last season has not carried into 2020-21.

United are away from home again on Wednesday as they go to Fulham, and avoiding defeat again will see them equal a club record.

EMULATING THE TREBLE WINNERS

The last United team to go 17 away games unbeaten in the Premier League was Alex Ferguson's famous treble-winning side in 1998-99.

United's run started on December 5 and lasted until the following September, therefore playing a major role in the Red Devils securing the Premier League title ahead of Arsenal, pipping Arsene Wenger's men to the crown by a point.

They scored 34 goals and claimed nine wins in those 17 games and conceded 16.

Should United avoid defeat to Fulham, statistically they appear set to improve of the 1998-99 team's run, as the current crop have already scored 36, conceded just 13 and won 12.

But even if they ultimately fall at the final hurdle at Craven Cottage, they are safe in the knowledge that no other post-Ferguson United side registers in the top seven for the club's all-time top-flight unbeaten away runs.

Whether or not this run would have occurred if fans were in the stadiums is another matter, but it's unquestionable that progress is being made at Old Trafford - or, you know, away from Old Trafford...

RESILIENT REDS

A key factor in United's impressive run has been the character and resilience shown by them.

They have rescued 18 points from losing positions on the road in 2020-21, which is already a record for a single Premier League season, bettering the 17 accumulating by Aston Villa (1993-94) and Newcastle United (2001-02). The previous best posted by United was 16 in 2002-03.

Certainly the pick of United's away comebacks this season was the 3-2 win at Southampton on November 29, as they fell 2-0 down before Edinson Cavani inspired a brilliant turnaround with two goals and an assist off the bench.

A WAYS TO GO

As laudable as United's current away form is, they are still some way off matching the Premier League's all-time record, however.

Arsenal's 'Invincibles' hold that honour, having gone 27 matches unbeaten away from home in the top flight.

That stretched from April 2003 to September 2004, spanning well over a full season as they comfortably beat the 23-game record they themselves set between August 2001 and September 2002.

The closest any team has got to either streak is Liverpool, who between January 2019 and February 2020 went 21 away games without defeat before they suffered a shock 3-0 loss at Watford.

Could Harry Kane land in Paris?

With Kylian Mbappe tipped to join Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly eyeing replacements.

Mauricio Pochettino has a familiar face in mind…

 

TOP STORY – POCH WANTS KANE IF MBAPPE LEAVES

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino wants to sign Tottenham striker Harry Kane, according to El Chiringuito de Jugones.

That is if PSG star Kylian Mbappe leaves the Ligue 1 champions for LaLiga holders Real Madrid.

Pochettino coached Kane for five years at Tottenham before he was sacked by Spurs in November 2019.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky Sport Germany claims Bayern Munich star David Alaba will not decide on his future until he has spoken to Barcelona. Marca reported that Madrid had struck a deal to sign Alaba on a free transfer at the end of the season. However, Alaba is reportedly holding out for Barca as the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and PSG try to lure the Austria international.

Martin Odegaard has asked to leave Madrid on loan due to his lack of game time, reports Marca and Diario AS.

Romelu Lukaku has no intention of leaving Inter for City, says Express Sport. Lukaku spent two years at United before moving to Italy in 2019. Pep Guardiola's City have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland amid doubts over Sergio Aguero's future.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Manchester City defender Eric Garcia could join Barca this month or at the end of the season.

Milan are eyeing Barca's Junior Firpo on loan, while Serie A rivals Napoli are also interested, according to Calciomercato.

- Eurosport reports Tottenham are looking to prise Danny Ings away from Southampton. Ings is reportedly stalling on a new contract as he eyes a Champions League club.

Thiago Alcantara does not play the "Liverpool way" and they should be cautious about how influential he becomes, according to former Reds midfielder Dietmar Hamann.

Liverpool signed Thiago in September in a deal that is not expected to cost them more than £25million even when add-ons are factored in.

It was seen as a real coup for the club such were the talents he had displayed during his time at Bayern, with many of the opinion he was the missing piece of the puzzle for Jurgen Klopp's Reds as they had been lacking the sort of midfielder capable of dictating the team's tempo.

Injury has restricted him to just five Premier League appearances since the move, the latest of which was in Sunday's 0-0 draw with Manchester United.

In that match Thiago showed flashes of his class, with his dribbling abilities standing out several times, while he also had more touches (122), attempted passes (96) and completed passes (83) than anyone else on the pitch.

But Hamann is not convinced Thiago is the sort of player Liverpool need in their midfield, suggesting the Spaniard likes to take control and slow the play down whereas the Reds have been at their best in recent years when utilising a quick tempo established by hardworking players rather than technical playmakers.

"Liverpool in the past have had hard-working midfielders, they were not as skilful as Thiago, but they gave the ball to [Sadio] Mane and [Mohamed] Salah early," Hamann explained to talkSPORT.

"If you get the ball early on the wing, and these guys can run at players they are very hard to stop.

"I just feel with Thiago, everyone was raving about him coming to Liverpool – he's hardly played. He came on against Chelsea and had the most passes in the second half, against a Chelsea team that was down to 10 men.

"He came on against Newcastle in the last 25 minutes, Newcastle were dead on their feet, everyone was raving about how good he is.

"I can tell you, he's a good player, a skilful player. But there was never a time in Munich where people said, 'oh he's the first on the team sheet'. So, I'd be very cautious when it comes to Thiago.

"And the other thing is, as other people alluded to earlier, he plays a different style of football. He likes to be in possession.

"Liverpool were always good when they weren't in possession, won it and played quickly forward.

"He's not that type of player, so it will be very interesting when he does play more often now how it's going to change the dynamics of the team."

Although Thiago looked bright, Liverpool's front three – particularly Mane and Salah – were quiet against United, with neither able to consistently get the better of the visitors' full-backs Aaron Wan-Bissaka or Luke Shaw, lending credence to Hamann's concerns.

However, Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino all produced two key passes each and Thiago did prove rather effective without the ball, despite Hamann's claims to the contrary.

His three tackles were matched by only Georginio Wijnaldum among Liverpool players, while his six interceptions was the most of anyone on the pitch.

Mohamed Salah insisted he wanted to stay at Liverpool as long as possible, but said his future was in the club's hands.

Salah sparked speculation over his future when he refused to rule out a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona during an interview with AS last month.

The star forward is contracted at Liverpool until 2023, but the Egypt international continues to be linked with a move.

Salah, who has scored 17 goals in 26 games in all competitions this season, said he wanted to remain at Anfield.

"I do not know. If you ask, I say I want to stay here as long as I can, but as I have said before, it is in the hands of the club," he told Norwegian channel TV2. 

"I will always give 100 per cent to the last minute I am in this club and I want to win as many trophies as I can. 

"And I want to give 100 per cent to the people, who show me love all the time."

Winless in four Premier League games, Liverpool are fourth in the table ahead of hosting Burnley on Thursday.

Dimitar Berbatov hopes the "soap opera" surrounding Paul Pogba's future is at an end after becoming increasingly influential for Manchester United.

Pogba's agent Mino Raiola revealed in December - with a crucial Champions League clash with RB Leipzig looming on the horizon - that he expected the Frenchman to leave Old Trafford in 2021, albeit not during the January transfer window.

The midfielder, who is under contract until 2022, has by no means been a regular starter this season, though his impact on the team has grown considerably in recent weeks.

His winning goal against Burnley sent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side top of the Premier League - a position they retained on Sunday thanks to a 0-0 draw away at reigning champions Liverpool.

Pogba was unable to take a late opportunity at Anfield that could have secured all three points, yet former Red Devil Berbatov has been impressed by what he has seen from a player he knows well.

"It's been a long time since I've seen him open on the pitch fighting, intercepting, reading the game," Berbatov told Stats Perform News.

"In the game against Liverpool, again, he continued on that trend for me. He was solid on the pitch again, trying to read and control the game, defending and intercepting.

"The chance that fell to him was because he was again in the box trying to score, though it didn't happen this time. Next time, it's going to happen.

"But as I said many times before, I hope that the TV soap opera over him - whether he's going or staying - is going to end, and we're not going to speak about that.

"I would like him to stay because I knew him back in the day, he was coming to train with us when he was still very young. You could see the talent straight away.

"If he's concentrated 100 per cent for the team, then he's on a level I think not many players can reach in the way he does."

United did not manage a shot on target in the first half against Liverpool, the first time they had failed to do so in a Premier League fixture since December 2019.

However, they posed a far greater attacking threat as the game wore on, Pogba and Bruno Fernandes drawing smart saves out of Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson after the break.

For Berbatov, the crucial aspect for the visitors was not to be beaten by potential title rivals.

"United had a good game, a solid game. I think I said before the game to a couple of reporters that for them it was going to be important not to lose," said the Bulgarian, who won the Premier League twice during his time at United.

"They had good chances to score in the game as well, especially Pogba. That chance was probably the best one in the game, one where I was almost screaming, but it didn't happen.

"But it was a solid performance, especially in defence, tactically the discipline was there on the pitch. As I said, a couple of chances to score came up, as well.

"Probably, if you look from the perspective of a neutral, you can say that the draw was okay for both teams."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer followed the Jose Mourinho method of parking the bus in Manchester United's draw with Liverpool, according to Paul Ince. 

The Red Devils maintained their place at the top of the Premier League, three points ahead of the champions in fourth, with a 0-0 stalemate at Anfield on Sunday. 

Despite enjoying just 34 per cent of the possession, United limited Liverpool to very few opportunities as the Reds went three league games without scoring for the first time since March 2005. 

In fact, United should perhaps have snatched victory in the second half, with Alisson making good saves to deny Bruno Fernandes and a clear-cut Paul Pogba chance. 

Solskjaer stated after the match that he did not feel his side deserved to win, though, arguing they should have done more throughout to threaten a centre-back partnership of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson. 

And Ince, who played for both teams, claimed Solskjaer deployed the same tactics that saw Mourinho "absolutely slaughtered" during his time as manager at Old Trafford.

"You could see the game plan with Manchester United, you saw it from the first whistle – they defended very, very deep," Ince told talkSPORT 2. "I thought United were very poor in the first half. 

"I remember a few years ago when Mourinho took United to Anfield, he parked the bus and got absolutely slaughtered for it. That's exactly what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did in the first half. 

“We knew they were going to defend and rely on their quick players like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford to counter-attack Liverpool. But I've played in Man United teams… you don't go to Anfield to defend, especially at a time where they've got two of their best midfield players playing at centre-half and they haven't scored in the last two games. 

"I wanted to see them have a go at Liverpool because they were there for the taking. This was an opportunity for Manchester United to go there and show what they were all about, but they just sat deep and it disappoints me."

WERE UNITED OVER-CAUTIOUS?

Solskjaer admitted he was unhappy with his side's first-half display and it was certainly not an enterprising one. 

United had just one shot in the first half, a Bruno Fernandes free-kick that went narrowly wide, while Liverpool attempted nine. It was the first time since December 2019 that the Red Devils failed to hit the target before the interval in a league game. 

Part of the problem, Solskjaer said, was an eagerness to release striker Rashford at the wrong moments. The England international was caught offside four times in the first half, more than he ever had in a complete league game before. 

Still, the leaders were a little more adventurous after the break. They had seven shots to Liverpool's eight and finished the game with four on target, one more than the home side, with Pogba's chance the best of the contest. The expected goals tally for each side was a little over one.

PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES

Ince's frustration seemed to be that United were no better on Sunday than they were in December 2018, when a one-sided 3-1 defeat at Anfield spelled the end of Mourinho's time in charge.

They were certainly happy to give up the ball. United ended this most recent game with 34 per cent of the possession, their lowest figure in a league game at Anfield under Solskjaer and both slightly down from Mourinho's final visit. 

And yet, United had a far greater degree of control on the game than in their previous two trips to their bitter rivals. 

Their shot count was done by just one on last season's game, which ended 2-0 to Liverpool, and was higher than in any of their visits to Anfield under Mourinho. Similarly, they faced just one more Liverpool shot than last term and a whopping 19 fewer than they did in December 2018. That 3-1 loss also saw United make 41 clearances, eight more than they had to make on Sunday. 

And while Mourinho's final game saw them attempt 59 passes into the final third – much higher than the 35 they managed this time – the majority of those were long balls aimed at alleviating pressure on the defence.

Indeed, United on Sunday attempted 22 passes into the Liverpool box, four more than they managed in Mourinho's last visit to Merseyside, highlighting a greater level of poise about their forward play.

Roy Keane thought Manchester United’s defence-first approach at Anfield deserved praise, even though he was frustrated with a missed Paul Pogba chance.

Despite Liverpool fielding midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho in defence, United surrendered possession and territory on Sunday in a top-of-the-table Premier League clash. 

It finished goalless, with the draw taking Premier League leaders United onto 37 points, keeping them three clear of the champions.

After a fast start from Liverpool, the match settled into a tense affair. The hosts had 17 attempts – nine more than United – yet only managed three on target.

It was the third league game in succession in which Liverpool have failed to score, with Jurgen Klopp's side without a top-flight win since they thrashed Crystal Palace 7-0 before Christmas.

United, who managed four efforts on target to the hosts' three, had the chances to snatch Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first league win over Liverpool, who had goalkeeper Alisson to thank for a string of impressive stops in the second half.

Arguably United's best chance fell to Paul Pogba, but the France star – employed in an unfamiliar right-wing role – struck straight at Alisson from close range.

Though United great Keane was left frustrated by the failure to take full advantage of Liverpool's mini-malaise, he believed his old club deserved credit for a resilient rearguard performance.

Keane told Sky Sports: "The big opportunity is the [Pogba] chance. You can tell by his reaction. His first touch is excellent, my goodness, he has to score. Go anywhere, across the goalkeeper, but not straight at him.

"Because his first touch was so good he's given himself that opportunity to go across the goalkeeper – a huge moment in the season for United. Credit to the goalkeeper, he's stood up, but that's the moment they might've been praying for before the game.

"It's easier said than done [to come out of defence]. We knew Liverpool would be quick out of the blocks, they haven't played for nine days.

"United were always going to be on the back foot for the first half-an-hour. They were sloppy in some of their play. You knew United would get the opportunities, it was a case of whether they could take them.

"You can't say Liverpool have played badly, but they've lost their spark, definitely, and when you get the opportunities like Pogba did, it's so disappointing. We've been giving Pogba a big build-up, we've been quick to criticise him but that was a moment for him to say he wants to be the main man, you've got to take that chance.

"I wouldn't be too critical of United, I thought they showed a good mentality."

Scott McTominay and Fred both made a game-high five tackles for United, while Victor Lindelof – preferred to Eric Bailly alongside Harry Maguire – made 10 clearances, more than any other player.

Though disappointing going forward (he lost possession more times than anybody else), Pogba managed to keep Andy Robertson under wraps, and gained back the ball nine times, behind only Trent Alexander-Arnold (11) and Thiago Alcantara (10).

"I thought the back four, which always worries me, were brilliant," Keane continued.

"I know they gave up one or two chances in the first half-an-hour. [Luke] Shaw was brilliant defensively and going forward. When I look at the couple of chances United created, they still created the best chances in the game. Huge moments."

After a build-up dominated by talk of the danger of goal celebrations in the pandemic era, Liverpool and Manchester United did their bit to calm the nerves of concerned viewers on Sunday.

Two sides being tipped as title rivals this term simply eschewed goals completely as they produced a spectacle that didn't quite live up to the pre-match hype.

But, while there weren't exactly fireworks at Anfield, the 90 minutes did at least offer some insight into the championship credentials of two bitter rivals.

For Liverpool, it was another game that highlighted the true reasons behind their recent Premier League malaise.

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez's absences continue to dominate analysis of the champions' performances, but it was telling that Jurgen Klopp's most notable selection looked to supplement his attack.

That saw Xherdan Shaqiri, whose two goals in one game against United in December 2018 means he has scored twice as many times in this fixture as Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, brought into midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Unfortunately for the Swiss, he couldn't reinvigorate a front three whose struggles have gone under the radar as a result of the focus on those defensive injuries.

Having failed to trouble the scoresheet in successive Premier League fixtures against Newcastle United, Southampton and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, Liverpool are on a three-game scoreless run for the first time since March 2005.

But this latest streak is all the more criminal given the wealth of talent at the manager's disposal, particularly when it is compared to Milan Baros and an ageing Fernando Morientes.

How Klopp must regret using Diogo Jota in that dead rubber against Midtjylland in December - a decision that ultimately resulted in him turning to Divock Origi in search of a goal here.

By contrast, Solskjaer had an embarrassment of riches on his bench and made use of them in bringing on Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood as he searched for a breakthrough.

That both players were used said a lot about United's performance, which incrementally improved throughout to the point that they looked the likelier winners as full-time approached.

Yes, they had been forced to dig in during the first half but, as former United captain Gary Neville pointed out on commentary for Sky Sports, that is exactly what even the truly great sides he was part of were expected to do at Anfield.

And, when Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba were denied only by Alisson brilliance in the final 15 minutes, another Alex Ferguson-style smash and grab on Merseyside looked on the cards.

In the end, Liverpool held on, ensuring both sides were left with a point that did little good to their hopes of claiming the title this term but plenty for Manchester City's.

Pep Guardiola's men have a favourable run of fixtures approaching and an opportunity in the aftermath of this stalemate to truly take hold of the race at the summit.

However, of their two rivals, it is United who will feel they did the most on Sunday to convince observers that they will be the closest challenger to their neighbours as the season wears on.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt Manchester United missed an opportunity against Liverpool after they played out a 0-0 draw with the champions on Sunday.

Premier League leaders United maintained a three-point advantage over their Anfield hosts after an uneventful encounter, as they stretched their unbeaten away league run to 16 matches.

Liverpool had 66 per cent of the possession and 17 shots to United's eight, but they rarely had visiting goalkeeper David de Gea troubled.

Indeed, United had the best two chances in the second half, with Alisson saving from Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba to preserve the Reds' unbeaten home record in the top flight which has now reached 68 games.

Solskjaer thought his side did not show enough composure in possession and was disappointed they did not do more to test a makeshift centre-back pairing of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.

Asked if United deserved to win, Solskjaer told Sky Sports: "No, we didn't, because I don't think we played well enough. We didn't impose ourselves on the game, especially first half.

"I think we grew into the game and at the end, you felt 'yeah, it's here for us to win'. We created two massive chances and two brilliant saves by the keeper.

"We can play better than this – we know that. We can be more composed, have the ball more.

"We had to defend really often and I thought we gave the ball away too often, maybe some moments we missed, when Marcus [Rashford] makes his runs in behind, maybe sometimes we don't pass it every time he runs and sometimes we missed it when he should have had it. [There are] a couple of things to improve on.

"I've got to be honest and say I'm a bit disappointed at the moment. We're playing against a fantastic team and they had more of the possession, but still, you want to go here, you know the injuries they've had lately, you think you can go here and get a result. We didn't, but a point might be okay if we win the next one."

When asked if United should have been braver, Solskjaer replied: "It depends on what you mean with bravery, in team selection or on the ball. I think we could have been better on the ball, been more quality, but I'd probably start with the same team, if that's what you're asking.

"I know we can play better but we're still coming away with a point, which I think shows how far we've come in a year or even six months.

"Of course it's a positive, you take a point, but you want to win every game so you can't be sat or standing here smiling too much. But we go again. We know we can do better than this, which is the big positive."

Pogba's late opening was the best chance of the game, the France midfielder firing straight at Alisson after being set up by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

It was otherwise a strong performance from United's record signing, who attempted more passes in the opposition half (22) than any team-mate and regained possession a joint-high nine times from an unorthodox role on the right wing.

"I think Paul was absolutely brilliant," said Solskjaer. "We knew he had to do a job defensively, block and help us with [Andy] Robertson, and I thought he was excellent and he should have got the goal his performance deserved."

Manchester United kept their place at the top of the Premier League after a 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

An encounter of few chances saw the Red Devils extend the champions' scoreless run to three matches, their longest such streak in the top flight since March 2005, in what was Jurgen Klopp's 200th league game in charge.

Alisson denied Paul Pogba from arguably the best of the opportunities as United's winless league run against the Reds reached five matches for the first time since 2002.

Still, the result edged them two points clear of Leicester City and ensured Liverpool remain one further back.

It was 14 minutes until either side managed a shot, Roberto Firmino seeing an effort blocked and Andy Robertson drilling the loose ball over.

Liverpool were controlling possession as United looked to exploit the makeshift centre-back pairing of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson on the break, with Robertson doing well to stop Marcus Rashford after a promising move.

Bruno Fernandes whistled a free-kick just wide and Firmino scuffed a shot straight at David de Gea as Liverpool broke forward quickly, that effort proving the only one on target of the first half.

United captain Harry Maguire did well to deny Firmino a clear opening from a Robertson cross and divert a Mohamed Salah effort wide, before Fernandes fired his side's first shot on target straight at Alisson with 65 minutes played.

Edinson Cavani came off the bench as United sought a little more presence in attack, with Pogba then heading straight at the Liverpool keeper from a Fernandes corner.

Fernandes was thwarted after United's best move of the match, Alisson sticking out a foot to save after the midfielder turned Luke Shaw's cross goalwards.

De Gea flung himself to tip Thiago Alcantara's fierce strike wide before Pogba was foiled by Alisson, the midfielder blasting straight at the Brazil international after Aaron Wan-Bissaka's pass.

Xherdan Shaqiri surprisingly starts for Liverpool in their top-of-the-table clash with rivals Manchester United at Anfield. 

The Swiss set up two goals after coming off the bench in last weekend's FA Cup win at Aston Villa and has earned himself a place in the XI against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side as a result. 

Jurgen Klopp has gone with a forward-thinking 4-2-3-1 formation in order to fit Shaqiri into the team. 

However, centre-back Joel Matip misses out despite resuming training this week after overcoming a groin injury. 

Klopp has instead opted for Jordan Henderson to partner Fabinho in central defence, with youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips overlooked. 

Although the Reds name a midfield without their club captain, they are able to give Thiago Alcantara his Anfield debut, four months on from his arrival. 

As for United, they make three changes to the side that earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Burnley in midweek. 

Nemanja Matic, Eric Bailly and Edinson Cavani make way to be replaced by Scott McTominay, Victor Lindelof and Fred, meaning Paul Pogba keeps his place after scoring the winner at Turf Moor. 

Anthony Martial is fit to start having been described as an injury doubt in the build-up.

 

It is December 16, 2018 – Liverpool have just beaten Manchester United 3-1 at Anfield in Jose Mourinho's final match in charge of the Red Devils.

Victory sends Liverpool to the top of the Premier League, and while they ultimately narrowly missed out on the title that season, hindsight shows it was a signpost for their potential and depths United have plumbed.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in soon after on an interim basis and, despite there being critics who consistently call his abilities into question, there can be no doubt of the impact he has had.

Sunday January 17, 2020 – United go to Anfield top of the Premier League, three clear of their bitter rivals. It is an achievement in itself, though Solskjaer has taken every opportunity to play it down – his terse response when asked in his pre-match news conference if he had received messages of congratulations from former team-mates highlighted his indifference.

After all, in an ideal world for United, this is just the start – they must now look to make the summit their permanent residence in the table and continue to develop.

While Solskjaer would surely not say so publicly, there is one area in particular where United should seek inspiration from their old nemesis.

 

FULL-ON FULL-BACKS

One of the Liverpool's greatest strengths over the past few years on their ascension back to the top of the pile in English football has been their first-choice full-backs.

Generally speaking, it is quite rare for a side to have a right-back and left-back who are both effective at either end of the pitch, yet Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are just that, and especially so from an offensive perspective.

They can help to create overloads in attack, with their presence in the final third still ensuring they carry a threat out wide even if the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have tucked inside, as they frequently do.

It's difficult to say United find themselves in a similar situation, however.

Luke Shaw has demonstrably improved as an attacking presence, suggesting the signing of Alex Telles motivated him to work harder.

The left-back is producing more crosses, successful crosses, key passes and passes into the box than he was last season, whereas Aaron Wan-Bissaka has regressed in each of those areas.

A reported £50million signing from Crystal Palace in 2019, Wan-Bissaka was billed as potentially United's right-back for the next decade, but at the moment he looks out of place in a team that generally attacks with speed, precision and commitment.

 

WAN-BISSAKA'S REGRESSION

Of course, a full-back's primary function is – for the most part – to defend, but as champions Liverpool prove, having players comfortable with both sides of the game provides a real advantage.

Wan-Bissaka certainly did not look to be a lost cause last season – his tally of three open-play crosses per game, while not outstanding, at least showed a desire to get forward. This season, there are only 13 players who have featured at least 10 times in the league to have averaged more than three.

But in 2020-21, Wan-Bissaka's numbers have shot down. Now he is delivering just 1.1 crosses per 90 minutes and his overall key passes total of eight only puts him level with United's back-up left-back Telles, who has played just six games.

Robertson leads the way among defenders with 32, while Alexander-Arnold, Joao Cancelo and Aaron Cresswell have 25 each, and next is the improved Shaw on 22.

 

UNBALANCED UNITED

So, what does this mean for United?

Above all it contributes to them being lopsided. It's no secret that they have issues on the right side of their attack, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford both preferring to operate from the left if not through the middle, while Mason Greenwood simply hasn't managed to recapture his form from last term yet.

This arguably makes it even more important to have a presence on the right, but seemingly Wan-Bissaka's team-mates do not have the same kind of trust in him as they do Shaw and Telles on the left.

Just 33 per cent of United's passes from the wing into the box this season have come from the right flank, which means they go down the left about twice as often.

There is no such disparity for Liverpool, though.

Even in a season when Alexander-Arnold's level is being criticised, Liverpool still frequently look to try their luck down the right.

In fact, 52 per cent of their passes from the wing into the opposing penalty area have been from his side of the pitch. They have much greater balance, and therefore this ensures they are less predictable.

Of course, this isn't just on Wan-Bissaka. As mentioned, it highlights an overriding issue with United's right wing, but it does also raise questions about whether they feel he is their best bet long-term at right-back.

In Wan-Bissaka's first season, his remarkable tackling numbers – which do remain impressive this term – and effort to get forward fairly frequently showed promise, even if some fans expected more from a £50m full-back.

But with United hoping this is the start of them establishing themselves among the leading powers of English football once again, there's little doubt a right-back with greater attacking presence would offer them another dimension.

Mohamed Salah believes faltering Liverpool "need to win" against Manchester United because of the high stakes involved in Sunday's showdown.

Premier League top-scorer Salah expects the always hotly contested north-west battle to have an extra edge because both are chasing the title this season.

The Egyptian striker, who has 13 league goals this season, has scored only once in his five previous Premier League encounters with United.

He has also failed to hit the net in Liverpool's last three league games this term, during which time they have mustered just one goal and two points.

As a result of Liverpool's slump, United have bolted three points ahead of Jurgen Klopp's Reds at the top of the table, with nine wins from their last 11 league games sending Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men soaring.

"The game is really big at the moment, especially because now they are first and we are second," Salah told Norwegian broadcaster TV 2.

"They are playing well this season as well. It's a good game but at the end of the day we need to win that game, I think that's the most important thing.

"I always say it's just one game, it's only one game. But because this one, if they win they are going to be six points [ahead of Liverpool] and if we win we're going to be the same, it's a little bit special this game."

The prospect of sliding six points behind their rivals from along the East Lancs Road is one that is hard to stomach for Liverpool.

When they beat United 2-0 last January, it took Liverpool 30 points clear of their great rivals, the title already in sight.

The narrative is distinctly different this season, and what is clear is that Liverpool's finishing must sharpen up.

In the 1-0 defeat at Southampton on January 4 - their last league outing - Liverpool had 56 touches in the opposition box, more than they have managed in any other Premier League game this season.

However, they had just one shot on target and 11 that missed.

In the same game, they had 79 ball recoveries, matching their season-high total which came against Leeds United on the opening weekend of their campaign. Liverpool put 61 passes or crosses into the Saints box - more than they have against any other side this term.

There is plenty that Liverpool are still doing right, but they are not finishing off sequences as they did during last season's championship-winning effort.

Salah knows many will be looking to him to put right the wrongs of recent games.

"When I'm scoring goals and can help the team, that makes me happier," he said. "When I don't score and the team doesn't win, that's a nightmare!"

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