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Liverpool v Manchester United

'Seven weeks ago the manager was getting sacked' - Neville defends Man Utd's Liverpool approach

20:16 GMT 18/01/2021
Solskjaer Manchester United 2020
The Red Devils took a 0-0 draw home to Old Trafford but questions were asked as to why they did not attack

Gary Neville has defended Manchester United for their performance against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

The Red Devils travelled to Merseyside at the top of the Premier League and faced with a Liverpool side on a poor run of form and without any established central defenders.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer selected the defensively astute Victor Lindelof alongside Harry Maguire, as opposed to the more flamboyant Eric Bailly, and it was an indicator of a careful approach to the game that ended 0-0.

The game lacked sparkle, although United did miss two decent chances in the second half through Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.

Had one of those chances gone in, it would have been viewed as a tactical masterclass from Solskjaer.

As it was, the Norwegian was asked to justify his team selection and why his side did not go on the attack.

Neville believes the approach was correct at a ground he says the Red Devils have historically struggled at.

“I can never think of once when we went to Anfield - Sir Alex Ferguson may ring me tomorrow and say I am talking rubbish - but I can’t think of once where we went to Anfield and we were able to dominate the ball,” the former Manchester United man told Sky Sports.

“We were back up against it for the first hour of every single match I ever played. Even at 1-0 up with 25 minutes to go you could never go for it. 

“Only [with] Louis van Gaal a few seasons ago did I see Manchester United dominate at Liverpool and thought ‘wow, that’s a performance’.

“Every other year that I have watched us at that ground I have seen us struggle until the last minute.

“So yesterday with 20 minutes to go I was thinking ‘what are you going to do Ole?’ He could maybe have put [Mason] Greenwood on 10 minutes earlier, Fernandes could have played better. They got the two biggest chances in the game and that plan worked other than the chances that were missed.”

The point kept United top of the table and Neville felt the Red Devils would have gone home empty handed had Solskjaer changed approach in the final 20 minutes.

He added: “The only thing I would say is that if Manchester United had put [Juan] Mata on or [Donny] Van de Beek on and gone for it, what would have ended up happening is that front three of Liverpool would have won the game and United would have lost.

“Liverpool are still a dangerous outfit even when they are not playing well, so to rewrite history and say Manchester United can go to Liverpool and dominate the ball... [Paul] Scholes and [Roy] Keane could not do that at Anfield playing against average players, let alone players who have won the Premier League and Champions League.

“I have been critical of this Manchester United team in these last four or five years, so I am not going to sit here and defend them when I don't need to.

“But yesterday at Anfield they were playing against a top Liverpool team and are establishing themselves in a place in the league where no one thought they would be. 

“I understood why it was not a bit gung-ho towards the end, even though part of me during the game thought 'if they are a bit further ahead in their development, their journey and their experience they’d have gone for it'. They are not.

“Seven weeks ago the manager was getting sacked; the players were getting booted out.

“They were all over the place.”