Massive media build-up, tick. Managers sniping at each other, tick. One set of fans getting ideas above their station, tick.
All the ingredients for the ultimate flat pancake were in the pan going into the top-of-the-table clash at Anfield – and who really believed we’d be heading into this match with it (a) being a top-of-the-table clash and (b) it being United who were top?
King Kloppo clearly wasn’t that worried by the threat of Manchester United, selecting Jordan Henderson at centre-back (no choice) and Shakiri in midfield (plenty of choice). And, in fairness, he could have played himself at the back in the first-half as United rarely threatened to do to the counter part of their counter-attacking game.
Realistically, this match was always likely to be a draw as United would have been delighted with that and Liverpool really could not afford to lose – but given that Liverpool had scored in the previous 43 games at Anfield and United had scored in the last 23 matches away from home you’d have banked it as a 1-1, not a 0-0.
Should United have gone for it a little more given the makeup of Liverpool’s defence? Meh, maybe – but was it worth the risk of losing their three-point lead over their rivals? Probably not.
It was the kind of spectacle that gets filed under ‘tactically interesting’ which is a nice way of saying it was a little dull – but hey, at least the Premier League didn’t have to worry about inappropriate celebrations in close proximity being beamed around the globe.
Ole claimed United were ‘disappointed only to draw’ but you’d have struggled to tell that given some of the reactions of his players on the final whistle.
Manchester City were possibly the biggest winners from the tepid clash, and would have been further boosted with the absence of Wilf Zaha from Crystal Palace’s line-up – reducing the Eagles’ chances of winning to 1% from 5%, though Christian Benteke also being out threatened to move them back up to 4%.
John Stones has been cast as a footballing Renaissance man in recent weeks with City struggling to concede with him back in the side but he made a difference at the other end of the pitching scoring a brace – goals that must have inspired Raheem Sterling to remember where the back of the net was, the England international boosting his tally to something like 3 in 13. City have been grinding out wins recently, but a 4-0 over Palace? Be worried pace-setters, be very worried.
Up at Brammal Lane, you could feel the collective groan from Tottenham fans after Serge Aurier scored so early against Sheffield United. Surely, even against the worst team in the Premier League, Spurs would not sit back and consider the job done with a single goal lead? They must have learned by now, right? Well, against all odds, yes they have – and you could even argue the Blades scored at the perfect time for Jose Mourinho’s men not to find a way of grabbing a point from the jaws of all three.
Son and Kane were involved throughout, obvs, but it was the casual outside-of-the-boot-from-a-crazy-angle-when-not-even-looking from Tanguy Ndombele that settled matters – some are (wrongly) suggesting it’s a goal of the season contender.
Gareth Bale must be hoping another cup game against a minnow opposition is coming up soon so he might get a run-out. Mind you, at least he made it into the squad – Dele Alli clearly didn’t show enough fight in training to convince Jose to make him an equally unused substitute for this one.
It would not have been a great surprise if the Chelsea dressing room had been singing ‘Here’s to you Mr Robinson’ after their win at Fulham – the red card for Scott Parker’s left-back following a bit of a bad challenge on Azpilicueta was the turning point in a finely-balanced match.
Mason Mount keeps getting told he is ‘Frank’s teachers’ pet’ or ‘Frank’s boy’ or ‘he needs to score more goals’ and he got the winner – will that get him a week off from the needless negativity? Maybe. It was a decent finish after Callum Hudson-Odoi, Chelsea’s most effective attacking player this season if you actually look at the data, brought some urgency to the field.
Kasper Schmeichel had the perfect 400th day out for Leicester City – three points, a clean-sheet and a front-row seat of some socially-distant celebrations from James Maddison. It wasn’t just Maddison who will have caught the eye of Gareth Southgate watching on from the stands – Harvey Barnes is continuing to live up to my early shout of ‘could be as good as Raheem Sterling’ by adding goals to his game. Granted, there’s a few players in an England queue ahead of him but he’s got to be worth a shout for the Euros if he keeps this up until the end of the season.
Leeds were nailed on to beat Brighton by five or lose at Elland Road. And they lost – courtesy of Neal Maupay’s goal, something that will be celebrated by strikers worldwide given how often we are seeing teams line-up without a recognised centre-forward nowadays.
Equally nailed on was West Ham and Burnley to be under 1.5 goals, for those of you that love losing your money at the weekend. Michail Antonio needed a matter of minutes to show the Hammers’ fans that selling Haller for a £25m loss almost made sense and David Moyes will now be finding creative ways to ensure Antonio’s hamstrings last the rest of the season.
Big Sham is finally underway at the Albion – and he’d do well to thank the defending of Wolverhampton Wanderers. It is very, very rare that you see Connor Coady have a shocker but that is exactly what he had – at least Willy Boly had the decency to go and get an assist and a goal having given away a penalty.