Manchester United defended with passion and determination at Anfield on Sunday as they drew 0-0 against Liverpool.
Facing 33 shots across the game, Erik ten Hag’s defence dealt with every challenge which came their way and kept the hosts from creating any clear-cut chances.
Defenders were enjoying defending. Taking pride in keeping a clean sheet. Diogo Dalot would knock a cross out for a corner and the likes of Raphael Varane, Jonny Evans and Andre Onana would give the right-back a fist-pump and start organising their defence for the corner.
There was a sense of unity between the defensive line, which was shown when Varane dedicated his Man of the Match award to his fellow defenders and goalkeeper following the game.
This was what a lot of fans fell in love with during Ten Hag’s first season. The duo of Varane and Lisandro Martinez were not only offering quality to the team, but a certain kind of defensive passion that has been void at Old Trafford in recent years.
After going amiss in recent months, with both of those players having spells out of the team, Varane seemed to bring that love of defending back to the United team against Liverpool.
The Frenchman has spent several months out of the team due to Harry Maguire’s form and Ten Hag’s insistence to play a more comfortable left-footed passer on the left side.
Yet, whilst you can’t exactly quantify the impact of Varane’s love-to-defend approach, it’s something that United need right now.
Asked how important Varane was at Anfield, Ten Hag said: “Absolutely, but we know what he is capable of and he has many such performances.
“I think he did very well, as the whole team did, [and] in the partnership with Jonny Evans, they were both leading the team from the back. I think also Andre Onana played a big part in it but I can mention all the players because it was really a team [performance].
“Very disciplined, but we should have taken [advantage] more on the ball. With three or four passes, that we are capable of, we could have even hurt the opponent more. But all over, in the end, you have to conclude that we had the best chances from open play, from Rasmus Hojlund and Garnacho.”
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