Ibrahimovic saves Man Utd, but Liverpool draw helps no-one
Chelsea extend their Premier League lead after a scrappy but entertaining stalemate at Old Trafford
Manchester United 1 Liverpool 1
A late goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic preserved Manchester United's ten-match unbeaten streak but the draw has dealt a severe blow to their title hopes.
They are now 12 points behind leaders Chelsea and it would require a dramatic slump in form from the side beaten just once in the last four months to be overhauled by their northern rivals.
The result also hurts Liverpool, who now trail Chelsea by seven points, although Reds boss Jurgen Klopp refused to accept that they were out of the title race.
"I heard this game was decisive for the rest of the season," Klopp was heard to mutter during the press conference. "Bullsh*t."
It was a scrappy but entertaining encounter at Old Trafford and after seeing his side drop their first points in the league since early December, Jose Mourinho declared himself "disappointed".
However, the Portuguese was not too downheartened. "I enjoyed it," said the United manager. "I didn't think the game had super quality. We didn't reflect the qualities we have and Liverpool have but it was very emotional, intense, aggressive."
Mourinho praised his side's courage in clawing their way back after James Milner had put the visitors ahead on 27 minutes from the penalty spot, and that was also what most pleased Ibrahimovic about the United display: "We got one point, we were not at the top of our game," he reflected. "It was a hard fight. We were 1-0 down and chased and chased, it was a different game in the second half and we got an equaliser... We were more direct in the second half. They played with high pressure and in the first half there were too many mistakes in our build up."
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp enlivened his post-match interview with BBC Sport with a Cantonaesque moment, although in the German's case it was insects and not seagulls that were on his mind.
"A lot of people before the game would have thought we would get a knock today because United look like a rolling beetle and everything goes in their direction," declared Klopp, possibly confusing some Liverpool fans who wondered what Paul, George, John and Ringo had to do with the result. "We know about our problems and situations so seeing a performance like today was nice. We needed to be brave, we created the spaces we wanted, we scored the goal."
Klopp, who once again was the equal of Mourinho tactically, shared his rival's assessement of the game, saying: "Tomorrow I can enjoy the result, but tonight only the performance. It is so intense. They play long balls, it was a wild game."
The most reckless moment came just before the half-hour mark when Paul Pogba, who had a game to forget, gave away the softest of penalties by needlessly handling the ball from a Liverpool corner. Milner converted the penalty but the visitors kept their lead going into the break only after two fines saves by Simon Mignolet, one from an Ibrahimovic free-kick and the other a Henrikh Mkhitaryan effort.
But the Swede had the final word, heading home Antonio Valencia six minutes from time.