In a brutal afternoon at Old Trafford, Liverpool were held to a 0-0 draw by Manchester United.

Injuries were abound as English football’s two biggest clubs clashed and couldn’t get the better of each other. What did we learn?

1. Battlefield: Manchester

For literally the first time in a decade, there were four substitutions due to injury in the first half of a Premier League game. This was absolutely brutal to witness.

First it was Marcus Rashford who began limping after a stiff challenge from Jordan Henderson, it was very 1990s and if that had been the only incident, there would have been no issues.

But whilst Alexis Sánchez was warming up to come on for Rashford, Ander Herrera slumped to the turf looking broken. The heart and soul of Manchester United’s midfield was so badly hurt he had to be replaced before Rashford, so off he came and Andreas Pereira came in from the cold into a game of unimaginable stakes.

With Rashford still limping around, Liverpool wanted to get in on the action with Roberto Firmino having to be replaced by Daniel Sturridge.

You’d think this would have switched the momentum back to United but all of a sudden Juan Mata appeared to have hurt himself. Everyone expected Sanchez to come on but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went for the half-fit Jesse Lingard instead.

Lingard was clearly unfit, but managed to miss the best chance of the game before completing the tragedy. Whatever grit and determination had been holding his hamstrings together snapped and had to go off.

Finally Sanchez came on as United completed all their changes before half-time and Rashford manfully strapped himself up and gritted his way through 90 minutes. Five injuries in 45 minutes (four resulting in changes) and this after Nemanja Matic was ruled out pre-match due to a late injury.

2. United grit their teeth and fight

United were already the underdogs heading into the match, given Liverpool’s stature and performances this season, but then they lost two No.10s as well as their on-field captain to injury. By then it should have been no contest, Liverpool should have wiped the floor with the Red Devils. As it turns out they couldn’t even open the cupboard to find the mop.

Manchester United showed true spirit in this game. Even with all that went against them they banded together and fought so hard that David de Gea, who has so often had to save Manchester United in games like this, had almost nothing to do. There was no miracle save he had to make as United collectively gritted their teeth and quite simply got on with it.

Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw were colossal at the back, with the former effortlessly cool under pressure when clearing crosses and the latter shackling Mohamed Salah so effectively the elite Egyptian was actually taken off before full-time.

Paul Pogba was Herculean in midfield, showing all of the poise and work-rate he’s often accused of lacking.

And Romelu Lukaku was contextually impressive out wide, running up and down the touchline despite his enormous frame and, although he again failed to use that frame to his advantage, he did produce two of the best passes of the game.

He put Lingard and Chris Smalling in perfect positions to score, only to see them both mess it up. Every single United player stepped up to perform with 100% effort, especially the clearly injured Rashford who spent the game either limping around in agony or sprinting after the ball, leaving it all on the field.

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3. Solskjaer’s faith in youth shows Fergie’s DNA

Late in the build-up to the game, Matic got injured and was ruled out of this massive clash. The Serbian has improved under Solskjaer and been a big part of United’s renewed quality in midfield. The question about how to replace him would have obviously focused on Fred, but instead Solskjaer decided to go with Scott McTominay.

Whereas Jose Mourinho used McTominay to denigrate Pogba, Solskjaer’s selection here felt like a young player being given a huge chance. With big money signing Fred so lacking in confidence, it almost made more sense to go with McTominay. And then when Herrera had to go off injured, again, Solskjaer threw Pereira into the mix.

These were big calls from Solskjaer, but they show why he and his coaching staff are so ideally suited to running Manchester United.

They understand that bringing youth players through into the first-team is such a vital part of the club’s DNA. It was vintage Sir Alex Ferguson, really. Asking young players to do a strategic job for a one-off game (and, it turns out, McTominay does a decent impression of Matic).

4. Klopp’s Sturridge gamble doesn’t pay off

When Firmino went off injured, everyone expected Jurgen Klopp to bring Xherdan Shaqiri on. After all the Swiss is a sensational playmaking force and was the man who turned the tide against United at Anfield (the Red Devils’ last league defeat). Instead Klopp gambled on Daniel Sturridge. He took the long odds that such a predatory goalscorer would give him the cutting edge he needed.

Unfortunately for him, Sturridge is on something of a losing streak right now. The forward looks like he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn and offered absolutely none of the lethal goalscoring instinct that he often exchanges for his all-around play.

Klopp did eventually bring Shaqiri on, but by then United had dug in and looked comfortable and even Shaqiri could do nothing. It’s always easy to gamble in hindsight, but Klopp betting on Sturridge looked like a loser and turned out to be just that.

5. Liverpool’s nerves give City hope

Manchester City began this game top of the table thanks to goal difference, but they had played a game more (because of the Carabao Cup final this weekend) than Liverpool. This meant that a win would have given them a massive three point cushion over City.

One would have expected, then, to see the Reds fly out of the traps against United. Or at the very least engage with their gameplan with the same sense of clarity and purpose that helped Liverpool seize control of the title race back in December.

Instead, Liverpool looked a nervous wreck of a side for much of the encounter. Their passes went astray, their runs weren’t precise, and even though injury decimated Manchester United’s attack and midfield, Liverpool could not take advantage.

Alright, Liverpool are now technically top of the league, but it’s only by a single point when it could have been three. In fact, given the injuries, it should have been three. Moreover, Liverpool’s much-vaunted front three were all toothless.

Now, they usually are against United, but if that form carries over into games against other sides then Manchester City could feel very confident in their attempts to retain the title.

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