Story by Olawale Adigun
MOURINHO MAKES A POINT
When he was appointed as Manchester United manager, the Portuguese assured United fans that he was going to go all out attacking, playing the United way. At Anfield, Jose did not approach the game with customary caution as expected, but he encouraged his players to snap at Liverpool, turn-over the ball as soon as possible, and get into the tackles (as exemplified in Rashford’s early challenge on James Milner). The problem with this approach is that it’s difficult to maintain it for 90 minutes, which explains why United’s pressure levels dropped in the second half. But the Red Devils looked more positive in trying to contain Jurgen Klopp’s side and also enhanced his reputation as a manager who gets what he wants from the big gigs and he would be very happy with the resolute nature of the performance and most importantly the point.
HERRERA KEY TO UNITED MIDFIELD
The Spaniard was formerly renowned at Atletico Bilbao club for his passing skills but at United, things have changed in terms of his working brief. Under Jose Mourinho, he’s been encouraged to be more conservative, breaking play and getting the ball to Paul Pogba. He has excelled so far and has gradually warmed himself back to Mourinho’s heart. He worked his socks off at Anfield. Although his energy levels dropped in the second period, Mourinho would be happy with his performance.
TOUGH NIGHT FOR ATTACKERS
After scoring 18 goals in the opening 7 games, Liverpool looked really blunt upfront especially in the first 45 minute of the game. They improved in the second half when Adam Lallana came on. Sadio Mane was clumsy, Daniel Sturridge non -existent, Coutinho also forced De Gea into a world class save. For United, Zlatan failed to impose himself, infact, United’s first corner came through after 80 minutes, still talking numbers, United’s 34% possession was the lowest Manchester United have had in the Premier League.
It’s difficult to see how United get back to blitzing teams with goals, Pogba has to start showing why he was bought for that hefty fee because he is key to this side offensively.
TACTICS VERSUS FANS EXPECTATION
The build up to this game was all about how Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho were going to make use of their attacking armada to create some end to end stuff for the fans. Alas! Coutinho’s screamer was the only source of excitement from this bore fest at Anfield. The fans want to see goals, shots, saves but fans would have left the stadium disappointed. If you’re a United fan, be ready for more, because Jose Mourinho is going to approach the big games this same manner. With the Portuguese tactician, it’s always safety first, but there’s been some attacking impetus under the new manager.
THE POGBA EFFECT
Man United were not exactly expansive and attacking against Liverpool. Thanks to Manchester United having a piffling 35% possession and Paul Pogba playing higher up the pitch, the world’s most expensive player attempted just 38 passes on Monday night. That’s less than one every two minutes, from United’s so-called midfield general. To give you some idea, that is his lowest passing figure of the season. His average number of passes has been 66 per game. His passing accuracy was just 71 percent.
That is way down on his season average of 66 and was less than – deep breath – Loris Karius, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, James Milner, Philippe Coutinho, Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera at Anfield. Yes, Paul Pogba passed the ball fewer times than the Liverpool goalkeeper at Anfield.
* His woeful pass completion rate of 71.1% was worse than every single player on the pitch barring Daley Blind and Roberto Firmino. And yes, we are including goalkeepers. His average for the season is 82.8%.
* He had just 63 touches of the ball at Anfield. For context, James Milner had 74 and he was a) at left-back and b) substituted. Pogba’s average for the season is 89.
* The combative Pogba won just 46% of his duels at Anfield. He attempted just two tackles and was successful once – in the 89th minute. It’s the first time he has lost more duels than he has won in a Premier League game.
* He has had one shot on target in his last two Premier League games. He has averaged 0.7 shots on target per Premier League game this season. That’s less than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney. That record puts him joint 54th in the Premier League alongside Cristhian Stuani, Daniel Sturridge, Arouna Kone and Nolito, amongst others.
* Pogba created one chance against Liverpool – though it was the header that should have been scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has averaged 1.7 key passes per game in the Premier League this season. That puts him joint 24th in the division along with Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum, who has two assists to Pogba’s zero so far this season.
* Pogba had one touch in Liverpool’s box on Monday night. And it was an offside pass right at the edge of the box. Both Liverpool’s full-backs managed two touches in the opposition area. No wonder Jose Mourinho said: “Where Pogba was playing, I was expecting more penetration.”
With just 35% of the ball during the match, Jose Mourinho’s side recorded the lowest amount of possession ANY Man United team has ever registered in a Premier League match.
It wasn’t just his quantity of passes which was below par, it was the quality too. Pogba has been successful with an average of 83 percent of his passes this season – his 71 percent at Anfield was his lowest figure in any match this season.
He had 63 touches
Yep, his lowest figure in a game this season. His average? 89 touches. He only won 46 percent of his ‘duels’
The first time this season he’s lost more duels in a match than he’s won.
He had two shots in total. No words required on this one. He had ONE touch in the opposition box
Quite a stat, which may partly explain the almost bizarrely poor numbers Paul Pogba recorded at Anfield. Some may say the United midfielder was a victim of Mourinho’s ultra-defensive tactics. Some may say we’re simply picking on the French midfielder.
However, regardless of the team’s style of play and system, are these REALLY the stats you would expect from a man who cost EIGHTY NINE MILLION POUNDS?