BY STEVEN WYSON
Nothing was working for Jurgen Klopp’s side before the break, but he changed that in the second half when they moved from their usual 4-3-3 to a 4-3-2-1 formation.
The idea was to nullify United’s wing-backs and pin them back – for example, Jordan Henderson came out and played high and wide on their right to occupy Ashley Young and try to free up Trent Alexander-Arnold so he could get more crosses in.
It was that change of tactics that eventually paid off down the other flank, when Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson put in the ball for Adam Lallana’s equaliser.
It had felt as if Liverpool were really struggling to break United down but, eventually, they wore them out.
They worked them side to side and, the longer you do that for, the more you back yourselves to get a chance – which is exactly what happened.
First, there were some tired legs from Aaron Wan-Bissaka that allowed the cross to come in. He was marking Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but could he have got out to Robertson quicker?
Then there was a little bit of a mix-up between Ashley Young and Marcos Rojo over who was picking up Adam Lallana. Young had him initially, but passed him over to Rojo and they ended up getting confused.
Roberto Firmino deserves credit for the way he ran past the first United centre-half and dummied the cross, because that caused problems for every defender behind him.
And of course Lallana did well to get in there for the finish too, but United will still see that goal as an avoidable one, especially after all the good defensive work they had done.
Despite the late disappointment, United’s 3-4-1-2 formation clearly worked, so Solskjaer now knows they are comfortable in that shape.
As he said afterwards, he has got a lot of centre-backs – and this is obviously a way to use them.
It is also a formation that allows Andreas Pereira to play as an out-and-out number 10, which is definitely his best position.
Pereira was not only effective on the ball, with his runs and passing forward, but also his work off it. The way he was closing people down was a big part of United’s success.
Further forward, we now know Rashford and James are effective as split strikers too.
United have had lots of injuries this season, but it feels like they have particularly missed Anthony Martial while he has been out, because he was going to play as their number nine this season.
I think Solskjaer wanted to play Martial as his main striker and play Rashford off him down the left where he has space to run, and where he can drift inside. Daniel James seems better cutting in from wide areas too.
With Martial out, Rashford has played in a few different positions and he has not really settled.
I think we will see the best of Rashford when Martial is back fit, and they can play together regularly as a three with James, but this also seems like a system that works for him.
United have been accused of being predictable and one-dimensional going forward at times this season, but they have got another option in attack now.