World Football

Manchester United vs Liverpool: Was VAR accurate in first half?


October 21 2019
Premier League 2019-20 Manchester United vs Liverpool

The two arch-rivals shared the spoils in a fiercely contested tie which had a lot of interesting takeaways.

Sunday’s Manchester United Vs Liverpool game almost spoiled the former’s unbeaten streak since the start of the season, but failed to do so owing to a late equaliser by the visitors. In an almost evenly contested fixture among the two biggest and most decorated clubs of English football, the 1-1 draw was probably a fair result, as either of the sides failed to create many clear chances.

While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be hailing the amount of effort his depleted, injury-ridden squad had put in, Jurgen Klopp would be ruing the missed chances and a few important refereeing calls that did not go in his side’s favor, which resulted in their first points dropped in the campaign.

Despite the stalemate, the match had plenty of highlights that can be discussed and pondered upon. Here are the top five talking points from the Manchester United Vs Liverpool clash.

5. Did Mohamed Salah’s absence reiterate the fact that Liverpool lack a plan B?

Liverpool fans were shocked to find that their star player in Mohamed Salah did not travel with the squad due to an ankle injury. This meant Divock Origi replaced him in the starting XI, who lacks the speed and sharpness provided by the Egyptian on the wing.

Klopp started Sadio Mane on the right flank and Origi on the left, while Roberto Firmino took his role as the central striker. However, the Belgian could not impose himself on the proceedings playing in an unnatural position. This exposes a long withstanding problem at LFC, where the squad lacks attacking depth. In a situation where either of their starting three attackers are unavailable, the Reds seem short on ideas, which could hurt them in the long run.

4. Did complacency on Liverpool’s part make them start the game slowly?

The visitors were surprisingly slow off the blocks when it came to pressing the opposition or going forward with the ball. While the absence of Salah did break their rhythm, their defensive tactics made it easier for the MUFC players to dominate the 50-50 contests. Solskjaer’s men played with a higher intensity, which also put the Reds on the back foot at times.

Klopp seemed very frustrated by the lackluster start his side had made, which allowed the hosts to go into the break with a goal advantage. The tactician’s half-time team-talk must have had an effect, as the Liverpool players showed more urgency, dominated ball possession and created more chances in the second half.

3. Did Ole Gunnar Solskjaer show tactical maturity with a tweak in formation?

Over the course of the campaign, Manchester United have taken the field with a 4-2-3-1 formation. However, the Norwegian tactician took a brave step and decided to change the formation prior to the start of the game, which resulted in United fielding a 3-4-3 formation with split forwards in Marcus Rashford and Daniel James.

This allowed the home side more presence in the middle of the park and despite being one man short at the back, the defenders seemed to have done a good job in containing the front three of Liverpool. Solskjaer has often been criticized for being too cautious in his approach and being tactically inept, but the slight tweak in the system showed that he is willing to change the shape of his team on the big occasions.

2. The lack of urgency in the second half poses a tough situation for Solskjaer

It is becoming a troubling trend for Manchester United, especially at Old Trafford, where they start the game on a high tempo, but deflate after the break. This was the fourth occasion this season, where the Red Devils have sacrificed a goal advantage from the first half.

The manager must be miffed with his players losing their focus and sharpness after the break. Against Liverpool as well, Manchester United changed their defensive approach and instead of keeping the intensity of their pressing high, chose to sit back and rely on counter-attack opportunities.

Their attacking input also sees a massive decline in the second 45 minutes, which is why they have struggled to score more than a single goal per game this term. This is probably the biggest point of concern for Solskjaer, who needs to keep his players focused for the whole duration of the game.

1. Did VAR accurately review the two major incidents in the first half?

VAR was heavily involved in two major turning points of the game in the first half. The first instance was in the 36th minute, right after the opening goal by Rashford. It looked like Divock Origi was fouled by Victor Lindelof that led to the turnover and the goal as a result. The Liverpool camp furiously argued with the referee, who took VAR’s advice and did not overturn the goal, as the minimal contact was not seen as a foul after the review.

Minutes later, Sadio Mane looked to have found a small space in the opponent’s box and found the back of the net after a tussle with Lindelof. However, VAR intervened and overturned the goal, after it was observed that the ball had made the slightest of contacts with Mane’s arm in the earlier tussle. As per the rules, the attacker cannot take advantage with his hand, regardless of inadvertent contact with the ball. While both sets of fans and experts alike have differing opinions on the matter, it is clear that VAR played a major role in the outcome of the game.