Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool ended Manchester United’s run of consecutive victories and saw the Reds fall further behind Chelsea in their quest for the Premier League title.
James Milner’s first-half penalty was eventually answered by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late header, but in between, there were plenty of questions about the strengths of both teams. Meanwhile, United’s attack chose the worst possible day to have a collective misfire. A point was, in the end, a fair outcome.
Ander Herrera was arguably as good as he had been at Anfield in October, with Antonio Valencia, David De Gea and Anthony Martial not too far behind. Marouane Fellaini also made a vital contribution from the bench.
Paul Pogba had his worst game of the season, conceding a penalty and looking anxious and off the pace. Henrikh Mkhitaryan missed a presentable chance at 0-0, while Michael Carrick failed to find his passing rhythm.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Jose Mourinho struggled to find an answer to Liverpool’s excellent pressing and his attack seemed to have few ideas when trying to play the ball into the opposing penalty area. However, his introduction of Fellaini changed the match.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David De Gea, 8 — Extremely composed under pressure from Liverpool’s forwards, his distribution was outstanding and he made very good saves in both halves.
DF Antonio Valencia, 8 — Another excellent outing. Little danger came down his side and, when it did, he threw himself smartly in its path. Also got forward with ambition and set up the equaliser.
DF Marcos Rojo, 7 — Was utterly dependable again. Looked composed from the beginning, playing the ball out patiently when needed, but also clearing with no hesitation when necessary.
DF Phil Jones, 5 — His loss of concentration in the first half allowed Liverpool in for the corner that led to their penalty. Otherwise Jones was good but this was a costly error when the game was in balance.
DF Matteo Darmian, 7 — Had a good game both in attack and defence, getting forward competently in support of Martial. However, a more enterprising full-back could have allowed the French forward to get closer to goal.
MF Michael Carrick, 5 — Was surprisingly poor — his passing failing to meet its target too often — and was withdrawn at half-time. Struggled against Liverpool’s aggressive pressing.
MF Ander Herrera, 9 — Won challenge after challenge, turned up on both flanks and, despite dropping deeper in the second half, still found time to be a crucial creative force.
MF Paul Pogba, 3 — Missed a clear early chance, was lucky not to be carded for manhandling Jordan Henderson, conceded a penalty with a handball, often lost his man in defence, only completed 71 percent of his passes and was pressed off the ball throughout. A day to forget.
FW Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 6 — Had a quiet and at times ineffective game, not making the incursions that he has so often in the last couple of months. Looked brighter in the second half on the counter, but should have done better with a very good first-half chance.
FW Anthony Martial, 7 — Started the game in superb style, running at players with freedom and, at one point, was being marked with three players. He could and maybe should have equalised early in second half and thereafter wa unlucky to be withdrawn.
FW Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 7 — Had little to work with as his teammates failed to create opportunities, but spread the play well, went close with a fine free kick and scored an excellent angled header to claim the point.
MF Wayne Rooney, 5 — Brought on for Carrick to add energy and focus to United’s forward play but, despite getting into good positions early, he soon faded.
FW Juan Mata, 7 — Brought composure to United’s play that had been missing and found room in the final third where others had not.
MF Marouane Fellaini, NR — Sent on as a last throw of the dice, his directness and physicality turned the match. He was instrumental in the buildup to Ibrahimovic’s equaliser with a header that hit the post.
Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC’s Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.