United are showing their spirit – Ole. Ten Premier League games into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as Manchester United’s caretaker manager and even the two games that he has not won have felt like victories. There was no late comeback like against Burnley this time, but the goalless draw with Liverpool denied their great rivals two points and was achieved in the face of adversity. If Solskjaer thought losing two players by half-time as he did against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League was a test, how about three and a half? The United boss was not only forced to make three substitutions due to injuries to Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, but he had to make do with a half-fit Marcus Rashford for the full 90 minutes.
The response that he received from his players spoke volumes
The response that he received from his players spoke volumes – and volume was certainly the word at Old Trafford on Sunday. The supporters have endured some dull goalless draws in recent seasons, but this was different. They recognised early on that their team were up against it and loudly backed them throughout. “This ground is alive,” said Gary Neville. “We learnt a lot about the mood of the club in that second half. Three months ago they were singing ‘attack, attack, attack’ and today they were singing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s name for all of the second half. The mood has completely transformed – the atmosphere was one of the best I’ve seen at Old Trafford for years and it was 0-0.” There had been a minute’s applause before kick-off in honour of the club’s fabled youth coach Eric Harrison. He was the man who helped guide Neville and many others through to the United first team, so it was fitting that there were no fewer than five youth-team graduates on the pitch at one point, more than any Premier League team this weekend.
Lingard did not last long but the four who remained typified the spirit
Lingard did not last long but the four who remained typified the spirit. Scott McTominay was called upon when Nemanja Matic was ruled out just before kick-off and there were those who wondered whether the midfielder would be up to the challenge. Solskjaer was not among them and his faith was justified. McTominay outran every other player on the pitch. When Herrera went off injured inside the first 20 minutes, he was joined by Andreas Pereira and he too impressed with his energy. At one stage early in the second half, the Brazilian did brilliantly to block Jordan Henderson’s right-wing cross and then moments later found himself at the other end of the pitch, working the crowd after winning a corner of his own.
Paul Pogba is rarely associated with such defensive discipline
Paul Pogba is rarely associated with such defensive discipline. He was left on the bench by Jose Mourinho in the reverse fixture as a result. But here he showed that he is prepared to put in the hard yards for the cause. There were roars when he tackled the ball out for a throw-in midway through the second half. Nobody on the pitch made more interceptions. As for Rashford, despite his obvious discomfort, he kept going to the end. Indeed, as improbable as it might seem given his injury, the 21-year-old forward actually made more high-intensity sprints than anyone else on either team. “He’s a warrior and he’s a Manc,” Solskjaer told Sky Sportsafterwards. “He knows what this means.”