It’s clear and obvious that Liverpool still see a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United as something to be feared.
Despite the dramatic decline of United, the Reds still can’t get that elusive victory away from home against their fierce rivals under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp.
The European Champions headed into their latest visit to enemy territory with a 100% record at the top of the Premier League table, one win away from equalling a top-flight record held by Manchester City.
A winning-run of 17 games stretched back to a 0-0 draw at Goodison Park, as Liverpool looked to inflict even more pain on the under pressure Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
Undoubtedly, this is the worst performing United side that Klopp has faced during his tenure at the club, and many predicted the current league leaders to run riot and make it nine wins from as many games.
The home side had other ideas though, and their high tempo start to the game forced Liverpool into errors and eventually saw them trail at the break. Albeit, the Reds were left aggrieved by VAR’s failure to flag a foul in the build up to Marcus Rashford’s 36th minute strike, as Victor Lindelof caught Divock Origi with a challenge from behind. A clear and obvious error in the minds of many.
More worryingly than the eventual decision was Liverpool’s reaction to the incident though, as they chose to gesture for a foul to be awarded and allowed United to breach their defence with a simple break.
Daniel James was allowed to race away and his ball evaded Joel Matip, as Rashford’s clever run left the returning centre-half flat footed. Regardless of whether the goal should have stood or not, Liverpool shouldn’t have allowed United to hit them on the break so easily.
The second half saw the hosts sit back and absorb pressure, forcing the Reds to try and find an equaliser while threatening to hit them with a counter once more. In control but void of ideas, it wasn’t until Klopp introduced Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana that openings began to appear.
The latter of the two was on hand to tap home a perfect ball from Andy Robertson with five minutes of normal time remaining, and Liverpool left Old Trafford sensing that they had just stolen a point.
Now, if on the opening day of the season any Liverpool supporter was offered 25 out of 28 points from the first nine fixtures, they would have bitten your hand off. Add to that the six-point cushion over Manchester City, and they’d have been delirious.
If they were told that the only points dropped would have come at Old Trafford, it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference to their reaction, as this is undoubtedly an incredible start to the Premier League campaign for the Reds.
The mental block that overcomes Liverpool when they arrive at Old Trafford is frustrating though, especially when the teams are poles apart on paper and in the league table.
United are 13th in the Premier League, 15 points off the pace and have recorded just two victories, compared to a Liverpool side who are the only remaining unbeaten team in the division.
Worryingly though, they can’t seem to find the winning formula at Old Trafford, with just one win from their last 14 visits, a period that has included nine defeats and four draws.
It’s easy to sit and pick out the negatives, such as an uncharacteristic Trent Alexander-Arnold performance that saw the fullback surrender possession 33 times, or how without Mo Salah the front three lacked any fluidity and creativity.
There’s also the fact that Liverpool weren’t allowed to play to their strengths, often hurried off the ball by United in midfield as they resorted to long, inaccurate and uninspiring balls up the field.
However bad this performance was though, Liverpool are still sitting pretty at the top of the tree. Liverpool are still unbeaten in the Premier League this season. Liverpool still have a healthy cushion over their biggest title rivals. And, most importantly, Liverpool still have another gear to find.
There are still positives to take from Sunday’s draw for the Reds, as they reacted and adapted well in the second half, asking questions and eventually getting a breakthrough.
Opportunities to win the game also came, but for a misplaced Oxlaide-Chamberlain pass there could have been a real chance to snatch all three points during injury time.
When a team sits back it’s always tough to break them down, and United have become masters of that art in recent times, choosing to frustrate their opponents into submission rather than adopting their dominant ways of the past.
The introduction of Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Lallana and Naby Keita added an urgency to Liverpool’s play, with all three making a noticeable difference in the pursuit of an equaliser, speeding up the play through midfield.
The man who saved a point in the end with his first goal since May 2017 will take more positives than anyone from Sunday’s performance, though. Lallana has been made to work hard for every minute of football this season, battling injury issues in the past too, and saw that determination rewarded as he netted past David De Gea at the far post.
He may well have a pivotal role still to play for this Liverpool side, as squad depth is something that title challenges are built upon, something proved by the current champions.
Despite the immediate despair that yet another trip to Old Trafford has failed to produce a victory, Liverpool will be delighted with their current position after just a quarter of the season has been played.
The reaction of the players and their head coach said it all after the full-time whistle, as they conveyed their frustration with the overall performance that was served up, however the mark of a champion side is to always demand more from themselves.
A record equalling win would have been a boost to Liverpool’s ego had they come away with all three points, however the ultimate goal is to end the season where they currently are. Top of the Premier League table.