Jose Mourinho revealed he did not consider starting Paul Pogba in Manchester United's loss to Liverpool as he deflected criticism of Romelu Lukaku's anonymous display.
France star Pogba watched from the bench for the second league match in succession as United slumped to a 3-1 defeat that leaves them 19 points adrift of top spot and 11 shy of fourth-place Chelsea.
Jurgen Klopp's side were on top from start to finish and only fleetingly looked like dropping points when Alisson's error allowed Jesse Lingard to cancel out Sadio Mane's opener with one of the visitors' two shots on target.
Substitute Xherdan Shaqiri later made the dominance count with two deflected finishes as Pogba remained unused even while United floundered in their bid to mount a fightback.
Asked whether the £89million midfielder was considered for a place in the starting XI, Mourinho said: "No."
Pressed as to why, he added: "Because I am happy with [Nemanja] Matic, Lingard and [Ander] Herrera."
20 - Romelu Lukaku had just 20 touches for Manchester United at Anfield - never previously has he had fewer in a Premier League game that he played 90 minutes in. Stranded. pic.twitter.com/TO5d0Dzz0y — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 16, 2018
Mourinho was also satisfied with Lukaku despite the striker managing no shots and tallying only 20 touches.
The misfiring Belgium international boats just six goals in his 22 club appearances this season.
"I think he didn't have a bad game at all. I think he fought hard, he had good movement, he set up the goal," the United boss said.
"He gave more problems today than last season when he came for the 0-0 draw. He was lively, he had movement and good interaction.
"Sometimes his first touch is not the best and he loses lots of balls, but today that didn't happen.
"He had some good links and fought hard. He's improving, he played positively in the last game against Fulham and today was a very difficult match to play. I think he was positive."