Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho called on his players to stop spurning chances after they needed an 84th-minute equaliser from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to rescue a 1-1 draw against Liverpool. Mourinho Paul Pogba squandered a one-on-one in the early stages of Sunday’s game and after his handball allowed James Milner to put Liverpool ahead with a penalty, United were left chasing the game. Only seven of United’s 32 Premier League goals this season have been scored in the first 35 minutes and Mourinho wants his team to stop letting their opponents off the hook. “We are having this problem for the whole season,” he told reporters at Old Trafford. “We start matches normally very, very well and we don’t score many goals in the first half of the matches.
Normally the first big occasion, the goalkeeper makes a phenomenal save. “Every goalkeeper that comes here plays fantastic. That save (by Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet) from Zlatan’s free-kick is an amazing save. “And then Paul is in the face of the keeper and missed the target. We have always chances to be in front and it costs us (not) to score goals.” Pogba this week became the first footballer to have his own Twitter emoji, which flashed up periodically on the perimeter advertising hoardings. But the world’s most expensive footballer produced an error-strewn display and it was his needless handball that enabled Milner to break the deadlock with a 27th-minute penalty. Ibrahimovic spared his team-mate’s blushes late on, stooping to guide a header over Simon Mignolet from Antonio Valencia’s cross after substitute Marouane Fellaini had hit the post.
With 14 goals, he is now the Premier League’s joint-leading scorer. United, who had won their previous nine matches in all competitions, remain sixth, four points off the top four, while Liverpool trail leaders Chelsea by seven points in third place. Mourinho, somewhat mischievously, said Liverpool had come to defend and likened their performance to the ultra-defensive display produced by his side in October’s 0-0 draw at Anfield. – ‘We’re still there’ – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who felt his team had been “the better side”, was aggrieved that Roberto Firmino was booked for his role in a stoppage-time altercation with Ander Herrera. Firmino shoved Herrera to the ground after the Spaniard had held him back by the shirt, yielding a pair of yellow cards and a frank exchange of views between Mourinho and Klopp on the touchline.
“Roberto is a footballer from here (gesturing to his head) to toe and he wants to stay in the game,” Klopp said. “That’s a yellow card for Herrera and nothing else. In the end it’s a yellow card for the guy who wants to play football.” Klopp also implied that United captain Wayne Rooney, a half-time replacement for Michael Carrick, had been fortunate to avoid punishment for an ugly foul on Milner. “If you are surprised, do me a favour: write it,” he told reporters. “For example, if it’s an ugly challenge, write it. Don’t make it a story of it when I say it.” Liverpool remain without a victory after four games of 2017, but Klopp pointed to selection problems as a mitigating factor.
An abdominal injury to Nathaniel Clyne saw 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold make his full league debut at right-back, while Philippe Coutinho was only fit enough for the bench. Sadio Mane is away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal and Liverpool announced before the game that Joel Matip is awaiting FIFA clearance after refusing to play in the tournament for Cameroon. “In this moment for us maybe it’s a little bit more difficult to play our best because not everybody’s available,” said Klopp. “But we’re still there and everybody could see we fight for it 100 percent. “There will be a moment when we are the better side and everybody’s back and in shape, healthy, fit, and then we’ll see how the base is then.”