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Ten Hag heartened by United's grit in Anfield stalemate

Updated: 2023-12-19 09:19
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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (left) was encouraged by his team's dogged display in Sunday's 0-0 Premier League draw, which left Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp (right) frustrated. AP

LONDON — Erik ten Hag said Manchester United could take a lot of positives from its 0-0 stalemate against Liverpool on Sunday despite being dominated by the home side.

United has had a terrible season — it came into the match with 12 defeats in 24 games and an appalling recent record against bitter rival Liverpool, who won the corresponding match last season 7-0.

Liverpool enjoyed nearly 70 percent of possession on Sunday and had 34 shots to United's six but the Reds could not break down their stubborn opponents.

Ten Hag praised his embattled team, who the previous weekend had lost 3-0 at home to Bournemouth before crashing out of the Champions League in midweek.

"I think the performance was very good from our side," he told the BBC. "The game plan went well, the players were brilliant, how they stuck together and were in the fight.

"My only criticism would be in possession we could hurt them more, if you get one, two, three passes in. But that's the only thing. If we scored one of the big opportunities we could have won this game.

"Liverpool is a very good team, a very good attacking team and a lot of movement. You have to defend very disciplined and it is a big compliment to the team how they did — the spirit, and the passion and desire was there."

The Dutchman admitted that he had wanted to avenge last season's 7-0 hammering at Anfield.

"It was a big loss — of course you want to take revenge," he said.

"We have a good squad, a good team and we can make something out of this season."

Liverpool was frustrated as the host missed a chance to return to the top of the Premier League.

United had Diogo Dalot sent off for dissent in the final seconds of stoppage time at Anfield, but Liverpool had long since run out of ideas in the face of the visitor's defiant display.

Having started the weekend in top spot, Liverpool kicked off in third place after wins for Arsenal and Aston Villa earlier on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp's side dominated a dour clash against its hated rival, but lacked the cutting edge required to extend its winning run in the league to four matches.

Liverpool sits in second place, one point behind leader Arsenal ahead of its summit meeting with the Gunners at Anfield on Saturday.

"I saw a lot of good things, the one thing I don't like is the result. We should have scored," Klopp said.

"I can't remember such a dominant performance against Man United, but they defended with a lot of passion."

Virgil vexed

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk took a swipe at United's defensive approach as he claimed there was "only one team trying to win".

"If you see how we played the game, we had most of the ball and created some opportunities. There was only one team trying to win the game," said the Netherlands international.

"We want to win every game of course and that is why it is frustrating. Sometimes we shot too easy and could have passed on the overlap. The right decision was sometimes lacking."

Van Dijk, who had a first-half header saved by Andre Onana, conceded he could understand why United was content to subdue Liverpool after such a difficult season, in contrast to his own team's fine form.

Urging Liverpool to learn from its failure to kill off United, Van Dijk said: "We carry on of course but it is frustrating because we were superior in all aspects.

"In the end they are buzzing with a point, and we are disappointed with a point.

"Obviously they are not in the best phase. Coming here you are wary of the threat we have. We should have won it today. We have to learn from certain situations, and I know we will."

Unlike Van Dijk, Klopp was not surprised by United's refusal to attack in numbers.

"It was the type of game I expected. If we play like this it is difficult for the opposite team to get out of their own half and the way United defended was clean with a lot of passion," he said.

"We tried everything and the numbers we created — in terms of shots — were crazy. But with that amount of shots, there should be a few more on target. That was our fault today and we go from here."

Asked if he was frustrated not to take advantage of United's recent struggles, Klopp added: "What everyone says only helps United. Why should we listen to that?

"They were fired up and I can't remember a game where they turn up with a white flag. It doesn't happen."


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