Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp bemoaned Manchester United’s defensive tactics and a controversial VAR call as the European champions’ 17-game winning run in the Premier League came to an end in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
Marcus Rashford’s controversial goal handed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s struggling Red Devils a 1-0 half-time lead, but they could not hold out for a much-needed victory as substitute Adam Lallana levelled five minutes from time.
Liverpool move six points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table, but Klopp still felt his side missed an opportunity to inflict more pain on a United side sitting 13th in the Premier League.
“Pretty much everything went against us. Our own performance in the first half as well,” said Klopp, who was left baffled by the VAR decision not to rule out Rashford’s goal for a foul on Divock Origi by Victor Lindelof in the build-up. “I was 100 percent sure VAR will overrule it,” he added. “The ref let the game run because he has VAR but then VAR says then ‘it is not clear’ so we could say it is not a foul. It’s a clear VAR issue in how we deal with it in the moment.”
The two most successful sides in English football could not have come into the game in more contrasting form.
However, United answered Solskjaer’s calls to rise to the occasion as his switch to a 3-5-2 formation restricted the league leaders to precious few chances.
“When we come here this year, last year and the year before they just defend. It’s not criticism, it’s just a fact,” added Klopp. “The quality they have, (when they) set up like that, it’s really difficult. It’s no excuse, we needed to do better. We are a good team and it’s normal people think about how they stop us.”
‘It’s not basketball’
United had not scored in their two previous matches prior to the international break, but finally produced a moment of quality going forward to take the lead, even if fortune was also on their side for the goal to stand.
After Lindelof and Origi’s coming together, Daniel James’s cross perfectly picked out Rashford to prod past Alisson.
“No chance,” said Solskjaer when asked if he thought it was a foul by Lindelof. “It’s not basketball, he touched him but it’s not a clear and obvious error. I don’t think it’s a foul.”
United are now off to their worst league start in 33 years as a point leaves them still just two points above the relegation zone, but Solskjaer is hopeful holding the league leaders proves to be a turning point.
“I’m disappointed I can’t sit here and talk about a win, but the performance is very positive,” said Solskjaer. “One point today is the start of something. We need to start winning games.”
Liverpool’s frustration only grew before half-time when Sadio Mane outmuscled Lindelof to turn in what he thought was an equaliser, only for VAR to this time rule the goal out for a handball by the Senegalese.
Klopp sprinted down the touchline at the half-time whistle, but was unable to change the pattern of the game after the interval as Liverpool continued to dominate possession without creating many chances.
Their lack of a cutting edge was not helped by the absence of Mohamed Salah who was missing with an ankle injury.
However, Lallana, who had played just 10 minutes in the Premier League this season prior to coming off the bench 20 minutes from time, was in the right place at the right time to make a telling contribution in the title race as he tapped home at the back post from Andy Robertson’s cross.