José came with a plan, and he stuck to that plan. Last year’s goalless draw against Liverpool was almost reenacted play-by-play, in what turned out to be a detraction from the attacking football both sides have played so far this year. For those who believed this was going to be a goal-fest, Mourinho had other ideas. Sitting his side deeper than usual and not over exposing the defense going forward, United looked happy to take the point and run.
David de Gea: 8.5 (Man of the Match)
By far United’s best player this afternoon. His stop against Joel Matip in the first half was world-class. Showing unbelievable reflexes and agility, De Gea somehow managed to get a foot on Matip’s goal-bound attempt. His safe hands throughout the game proved essential to settle any nerves and stop Liverpool’s creative, attacking threat.
Antonio Valencia: 6
Solid in the backline from the skipper who put in a confident defensive performance. The defensive tactics Mourinho implemented on this game limited his chances to support Ashley Young and inflict damage on the questionable Alberto Moreno.
Phil Jones: 7.5
Missing his steadfast partner Eric Bailly, Jones stepped up in the Ivorian’s absence and produced, arguably, the best performance from a United outfield player. Jones did not have to deal with a big number 9 threat, but Liverpool’s dynamic attackers were always going to be dangerous. Jones and the backline did a fantastic job at limiting them to half-chances.
Chris Smalling: 7
Filling in for Eric Bailly, Smalling produced an assured performance. Worries about Liverpool’s speed in the final third would have worried many, but Smalling proved he can be a viable option for Mourinho in a big game. He handled Firmino effectively.
Matteo Darmian: 6
Mourinho undoubtedly started Darmian as a safer defensive option than his other alternatives. Playing against the pacey, in-form Salah was always going to be a tough ask for the Italian, who has not featured in all that many minutes this season. He was beat too easily at times and looked the weak-link in the Manchester United backline. However, he still gained the clean sheet.
Nemanja Matić: 7
Perfectly utilized by Mourinho in this game. He seemed to relish the role of disrupting Liverpool’s attacking threat, providing a pivotal link between United’s defense and midfield. Matić was never going to win the game offensively in this match-up, but he contributed to make sure United didn’t lose.
Ander Herrera: 6
Herrera endured a shaky start to the game, diving in to rash challenges. His usual composure on the ball was tested by Liverpool’s defensive press. Herrera needed to be the key man to link United’s forwards with the midfield/backline, yet he rarely had time on the ball to do so. However, he did contribute defensively in limiting the creative spark Coutinho posed.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 5
Mkhitaryan was a ghost in this game. His creative spark and energy was restricted by the formation and tactics of Mourinho. Nevertheless, he almost grabbed an assist to Lukaku, in United’s only real decent chance in the game.
Ashley Young: 6
A surprise addition to the starting squad in terms of his advanced position on the field. Typically used as a left-back by Mourinho this year, Young found himself on the right-wing. Possibly placed there instead of the more attack-minded Rashford, Young offered a more defensive work-rate in the game. Restricted going forward.
Anthony Martial: 5
With Liverpool’s backline as shaky as they have been in recent games, I fancied Martial to tear apart the full-backs. I was wrong. It proved one of the most subdued performances from Martial, where he did little to even bother Joe Gomez.
Romelu Lukaku: 5.5
Left isolated in the attacking role, it was always going to be difficult for the Belgian to implement his dominance in this game. Jibes of “he doesn’t perform in big games” came from the Liverpool faithful, and in some regards they were proved right. I wouldn’t put this down to Lukaku’s inability to turn up in this big game, rather United’s unwillingness to expose a subpar Liverpool backline. He did have one opportunity late in the first half to give United a lead, but Mignolet stood up to the test.
Jesse Lingard (Sub, 63’): 5
Came on for the ineffective Mkhitaryan just after the hour-mark. Did little to expose the Liverpool defense, offered energy and some smart touches, but that was about it.
Marcus Rashford (Sub, 65’): 5
Like-for-like substitution for Martial on 65 minutes, Rashford mirrored Martial’s unproductive performance. Didn’t get to utilize his pace in behind and Gomez subdued him any time he tried.
Victor Lindelöf (Sub, 90’): N/A
Came on in stoppage time. Too late for rating.
José Mourinho: 6
There are two ways to look at Mourinho’s rating today.
- Give him a 10/10 for following his game plan and limiting the creativity of Liverpool’s usually explosive attacking options. He perfected his own plan tactically and made sure all his players followed suit. In this regard he should be praised.
- Give him a 3/10 for his lack of ambition. United have been enjoyable to watch this season. Yes, this has come against opponents that have given little opposition to United, yet the free-flowing attacking style has been fantastic. Mourinho’s decision to detract from that style of play created a United performance previously unseen this season. Disappointingly, this tactical, contained style came against a Liverpool side who have been woeful defensively. Once again detaching themselves from the consistent United teams of old.
That being said, United are still unbeaten, allowing just two goals and keeping seven clean sheets. We may not make too many friends along the way with performances like this, but it’s an efficient United side that look to keep pace with the noisy neighbors.