Liverpool had been poor in the first half and better in the second, but without creating too much of clear-cut note. Now they turned the screw. Another substitute, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fizzed a shot inches past a post and the five minutes of stoppage-time counted down slowly for United. Yet they did enough. For Solskjær and his players, the performance as much as the result offered hope, reports theGuardian.
United had started the day in 14th place – one point above the relegation zone – and it seemed as if every number, every statistic, was insulting them. Several bookmakers had them as long as 7-2 to beat opponents.Liverpool had last dropped league points in the 0-0 draw at Everton on 3 March. Desperate times called for radical measures and for the first time this season, Solskjær started with a three-man defence, although even that plan needed a late fine-tune after Axel Tuanzebe was ruled out with an injury in the warm-up. In came Marcos Rojo on the left of the back three.
Solskjær’s idea was to hit his pacy forwards, Rashford and Daniel James, with balls into the channels but also for them to defend from the front; to set the tone for the team. They did so. This was arguably Rashford’s best performance under Solskjær while James’s energy and remorselessness was a positive. United’s collective commitment galvanised the Old Trafford crowd.
It was a match where the nuances of VAR once again came under scrutiny and Klopp was bitterly unhappy that it did not rule out Rashford’s goal. The flashpoint followed Victor Lindelöf’s tackle from behind on Divock Origi which set a fast United counterattack in motion and, certainly, it looked like a foul – even if Solskjær disagreed. United still had some way to go but when Scott McTominay released James, there was pace and possibility. The Welshman crossed low and, after deceiving Joël Matip with a clever piece of movement inside the area, Rashford prodded past Alisson.
Klopp’s argument was that the referee Martin Atkinson had allowed the play to continue because he knew that VAR would help him after the event. But the problem was, in the Liverpool manager’s view, that the decision was not then clear and obviously wrong enough to merit an overrule.
Klopp’s mood would darken before the interval when his team had an equaliser chalked off by VAR. On viewing the replay, it was plain that Sadio Mané had used a hand to control a high ball before wriggling away from Lindelöf to beat De Gea. The problem with the technology is that it does not warn the supporters of the scoring team quickly enough.
Liverpool, who expect the absent Mohamed Salah to have recovered from his ankle problem for Wednesday’s Champions League game at Genk, had created the best chance of the first half when Mané cut back for Firmino and he shot too close to De Gea, but Klopp was forced into changes in the second half.