Neither Liverpool nor Manchester United were able to claim what would have been a statement win at the top of the Premier League table as they played out a tepid 0-0 draw at Anfield on Sunday. For all Thiago's scheming early in the match and United's impressive countering in the closing stages, this was a match that neither side particularly deserved to win.
United had the best of the closing minutes as Alisson saved at close range from Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba but had struggled for possession even if their hosts rarely looked like ending a Premier League goalless streak that now stands at three games. Find the key talking points from the game below.
Liverpool's full-backs fall flat
Trent Alexander-Arnold's struggles from wide areas in recent weeks have been well-documented and were sufficient that Jurgen Klopp felt compelled to haul off the right-back in Liverpool's 1-0 defeat at Southampton earlier this month. There was no sign of that improving for much of Sunday's game and it was immediately noticeable that the champions are a diminished attacking force without two full-backs in top form attacking from wide.
To an extent there may be tactical reasons why Alexander-Arnold did not advance up the pitch as he once might have. United had the forwards to punish Liverpool on the counter whilst Xherdan Shaqiri, playing as the right-sided eight of an attack-minded midfield, was drifting into the sort of positions that would usually be occupied by the full-back. Only Klopp knows if that was by design or two players getting in each other's way.
Regardless it left Liverpool with two left footed players cutting in from the right and a right footer cutting in from the left, Andrew Robertson the only player providing any semblance of natural width. United could pack the penalty area and survive, they effectively did that with Fred and Scott McTominay forming a back six in possession that Liverpool's attack crashed against.
There was a moment where Liverpool showed the attacking patterns of old, a 59th-minute crossfield pass by Alexander-Arnold into the path of an overlapping Robertson. United had overbalanced to the right and immediately looked vulnerable as the Scottish left-back fizzed in an excellent cross along the face of goal. Even under pressure from Harry Maguire, Roberto Firmino might have done more but in normal times he and his fellow forwards might get half a dozen of those chances to miss.
Solskjaer struggles to fit in Pogba
Going into the game as Premier League table toppers it was curious how far United looked from having a midfield and attack that clicks perfectly. With so many players who look at their best on the left flank someone is inevitably going to have to compromise.
In midweek that meant Marcus Rashford, not at his best in a right wing role. Paul Pogba had impressed in central midfield in that win over Burnley but with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needing the security of his Fred-McTominay pairing in the engine room he would have to play further forward, perhaps not a problem as he has impressed in a free role off the left.
And yet that would mean Rashford playing out of position. Solskjaer's solution? To play all three of his forwards in roles they have rarely featured in this season. Rashford was at the tip of the attack but was caught offside four times in a sign that he wasn't in rhythm with his teammates in a central position. Anthony Martial then took the berth on the left, where he counter-attacked effectively on occasion, whilst Pogba was on the right, spending more of his time tracking Andrew Robertson than getting United on the front foot.
For an hour, United's counters did not quite click, when they are at their most devastating on the breakaway you sense a team that know exactly where their teammates will be and can find them with one-touch passing. Prior to Martial's exit for Edinson Cavani on the hour you got the sense that none of the visiting front three knew where they should be, let alone their teammates.
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Thiago in the mood
Four months after Liverpool completed the remarkable swoop to lure Thiago Alcantara away from Bayern Munich the Spaniard was finally able to make his Anfield bow. It was worth the wait.
In an underwhelming first half Thiago stood out for his vision, composure and impudence. His eyes and body shape would tell United defenders he was doing one thing, a swipe of his right boot would change matters in quite a different way. Sometimes even his teammates did not seem ready for what their new addition was bringing to the team, Trent Alexander-Arnold hurrying a cross from a good position on the right because he didn't realize how much time the Spaniard had given him on the ball.
At his best early in the game Thiago was on hand to pick up the loose threads when a Liverpool attack broke down, knitting everything together so that the hosts could smother the United defense. He was perhaps more the player who created pressure rather than the one who laid on the chances though as the second half wore on he seemed to realize he might have to do it all himself, bursting through midfield in the 78th minute and drawing a diving save from David de Gea from long range.
Premier League outlook
United remain top of the Premier League with a two-point cushion over Leicester City. Liverpool are a further point back in third. Crucially, however, Manchester City can go top if they win their two games in hand over the top four.
We were with you the entire game, providing analysis, updates, highlights and more. Take a look back at Sunday's match below.