Manchester United held Liverpool to an impressive 0-0 draw on Sunday despite a number of injury problems.
Juan Mata and Ander Herrera were both substituted in the first half, to be replaced by Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard. Lingard then got injured himself and was replaced by Alexis Sanchez, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were still able to hold on to take an admirable point.
The game itself was short on quality and there were a dearth of genuine goalscoring opportunities at Old Trafford.
According to the BBC, Liverpool had one shot on target throughout the game, while United had three.
But perhaps the most important element of the game was Solskjaer’s management.
He was confronted with perhaps his worst managerial nightmare; players were, quite literally, dropping like flies, and yet he adjusted astutely.
This is a manager who has previously only bossed Molde and Cardiff City but his tactical decisions were all sound and salient against the Reds.
Indeed, while Jurgen Klopp’s men had 65% possession, again per BBC, and seven corners, they had no way of breaking through United’s defensive line.
Scott McTominay starting in midfield was a bold choice that paid off, the Scot’s no-nonsense approach seeing him win three aerial duels and keep the ball for his side – he had an 84% pass completion rate, per WhoScored, and made two interceptions and three clearances.
Across the defence, Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof were all rarely troubled, as Solskjaer opted to cede possession and challenge Liverpool to break his side down.
They couldn’t, even with United’s injury problems, and the result was a triumph of clever tactical thinking from the Norwegian.
One could argue that the game was there for United to win, such was the bluntness of Liverpool’s attack throughout the 90 minutes.
But, given the injury problems sustained by three key players, Solskjaer should be delighted to have achieved a draw.
United remain unbeaten in the Premier League under their former striker and have only lost once in all competitions, against PSG in the Champions League. That result, too, came about after injuries to Lingard and Anthony Martial.
When his players stay fit, Solskjaer tends to guide his side to victory.
That he couldn’t on Sunday is no slight on his managerial ability. In fact, it will only strengthen his case to become the next permanent manager of the club.
Come the end of the 90 minutes, after all, United pulled a point from the flames, and should be oozing with confidence ahead of their midweek clash with Crystal Palace.