Man United made a point at Liverpool but so did Sevilla and Burnley… it’s only a good result if Jose Mourinho's ambition is to finish above Liverpool

We ought to listen to MS. After all, he writes for GQ. Meaning I might listen to him if he wrote about Paul Pogba's hair, but that's about it. And a further comment: I’d twice tried to post on another article with the name of the same ‘journalist’ – and yes, those are scare quotes – and the comments never got posted. This time I simply put MS. My, isn't that a dreadful disease, too? RedUSA60, Indiana.

What, semi-literacy and hiding timidly behind an alias? I don’t think either are diseases, Mr Anonymous, they’re just not very good looks on a person.?

And what exactly are ‘scare’ quotes? Are they the same as air quotes, by any chance? Oh dear. Please don’t takle offence. I’d hate you to feel you were being made – what was it Jade Goody said – an ‘escape goat’. You’re already smarting over absent posts, I have absolutely no control over what goes up. The moderation team checks for anything obscene or offensive, so maybe you fell foul of that. You will notice a lot of posters use ‘Martin’, ‘Samuel’, often ‘Samuels’ without obstruction, and criticism is most certainly allowed – in fact an entire online column has been built around just that. So don’t think you are being denied a voice, or that your line of attack required special treatment. You’re hardly a challenge.?

And, talking of competitive non-events, today’s debate concerns Manchester United’s draw at Liverpool and my assertion it might not prove a good away point for Jose Mourinho, considering how Manchester City have started.?A lot of United fans unhappy with that; and some in agreement. We’ll get to as many as time allows.?

But, first, as one of this country’s leading sports writers, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is, ‘But Mart, do you know any blinding reggae groups from Bangladesh?’ And I always reply: ‘Of course I do, pal. What do you think this is – amateur hour?’

Manchester United fans would not be concerned much about the style of football right now having been out of contention since 2013. At the moment substance over style is what they want and they wouldn’t mind if Mourinho wins the league this way. Siddhant19, Mumbai.

Neither would I, Sid. I’ve always said it takes all sorts and if that way gets the most points it is up to the others to beat it. My argument is that pragmatism might not be the way to win this season because of what Manchester City are doing, and what is being viewed as a solid point at Anfield may come to be regarded as an opportunity lost, considering that Manchester United are a better team than Liverpool right now. I think they should have risked more in search of three points.

I don’t really see much wrong with the approach. In the first half, United were getting the ball down the wings, but it never really amounted to much. Then Romelu Lukaku had a chance to win the game. It’s away at Anfield, so a point is fine. Mourinho had a few important players out that would have dictated a different approach for United. If they win at home and keep beating the lower teams, away points against the top four sides are just fine. City will slip at some stage. Cameron Walker, Australia.

A lot of presumption there, Cameron. City will slip at some stage? That’s guaranteed, yes? They slipped at home to Everton in August and United are still trailing by two points and goal difference. Also, how can a point against the top four be fine if City are playing the same games and winning??Manchester City won at Stamford Bridge on September 30, so how could a draw with Chelsea be enough? Equally, they put six past Watford, who are currently fourth. So a draw at Vicarage Road is another two points dropped. As it stands, City have gained two points on United with a harder fixture programme, over eight matches.?Projected through a season that amounts to a differential of nine points plus. And do you know what that means, Cameron? Carry on at this rate and City could afford to lose to United home and away and still win the league. So even this slip that you consider inevitable might be rendered irrelevant unless United start to match their ambition.

The truth is Mourinho can't win against the big guns without bus-parking tactics even though he has always had an expensive squad. He’s just not good enough. One of the reasons he parted with Real Madrid was they could not stand his nonsense tactics. LaminSJ, London.

I don’t agree. Mourinho has an excellent record against Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, and him knocking Chelsea out of the Champions League with Inter Milan was one of the results that cost Carlo Ancelotti his job. The year before Mourinho won the league in his second spell with Chelsea, his record against the top four was magnificent, and not all of those results came from rearguard actions. As I said in the match report, knowing how to organise a team is not a crime – certainly when you know the opposition are superior. My beef with Saturday’s performance was that United had the better team but did not approach the game with that swagger.

Mourinho does not have the same squad as Pep Guardiola or the same bottomless pockets backing him. Manchester United have to show a profit to buy the players they need to compete so Mourinho plays every match with what players he has available and how he thinks the opposition will play. He’s incredibly astute tactically. Guardiola coaches a brand of football but he needs massive amounts of money to make it successful in the Premier League.Engagebrain, Cape Town.

Pants. Everywhere Mourinho has been he has had access to a cheque book. Do not try to play that down. Mourinho hasn’t got it bad; he has played anti-football at every club. He has spent wherever he has gone but no matter how much it always boils down to playing horrible football. Pep hasn't spent that much and made big improvements at City – all of the squad were there before. I am neutral but believe Pep is worlds above Mourinho as a manager. Pogbas Pillow, Belfast.

When people wonder why I sometimes stray off topic in The Debate it’s because of arguments like this. Two posters, either side of the argument, entirely unable to even acknowledge reality. How can anyone argue that the manager of Manchester United, or Manchester City, hasn’t had money to spend. They’ve lavished fortunes on these teams, both of them. And Pep’s key men were there before? Gabriel Jesus? Ederson? Equally, both are outstanding coaches who have greatly improved the players and performances at their clubs. I took issue with one match of Mourinho’s – not his entire career.

Jose Mourinho came under heavy fire for Manchester United's tactics at Liverpool

Jose Mourinho came under heavy fire for Manchester United's tactics at Liverpool

We’ll only know if it's a good point in the end – but Juan Mata isn’t a genuine alternative to combat a three-man midfield, with legs if nothing else. Was I happy with United’s performance second half? No. Was I happy with the idea of defending and counter attacking? Yes, we just didn’t do it well. Liverpool deserve credit for that and like it or not they did make changes to stop us, relying on the front three to get a goal. Their midfield three stopped us countering and ultimately that contributed to them not scoring because they were not willing to change during the game. If Mourinho plays the same way at Old Trafford with three viable central midfielders to match them, then the criticism is OK. Maybe it’s just too early for people to stomach pragmatism – but it’s too early to say a point away at Anfield isn’t good either. Lewis, Manchester.

I completely accept that analysis, Lewis, I just think your team was capable of more. The day before the game, this newspaper – and most others – produced one of those composite XIs made up of the best players from the two teams. I remember getting the most furious reaction from Merseyside when I did one of those in the column in February 2009 – it was quite a novel idea then – to explain why Manchester United were ahead of Liverpool. I had three Liverpool players in the team – Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Jamie Carragher, at right-back. I ticked off so many Liverpool fans I even got a call from our golf correspondent, and Anfield season-ticket holder, Derek Lawrenson. Last week, I noticed, this newspaper – and many of the others – included nine United players to Liverpool’s two. So while I understand what Mourinho did, I am still bemused at why he did it. Without Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana, United had much the better team and everyone knew it.

Mourinho turns into Guardiola when he's playing Swansea and the like but as soon as it’s a team with actual quality he reverts to playing for a draw. He's a lame manager who has managed the richest club in every league he's been in. He’ll be found out when he has to manage a club that isn’t wealthy where he actually has to develop and improve players. DamienX, Huddersfield.

He started at exactly those sort of clubs Damien, and thrived, which is how he ended up at Porto, then Chelsea and the rest. It was frustrating however, to see him play this way in his first match against a team in the top half. When I was a kid, I thought Glenn Hoddle was wonderful and defended him against all those who wouldn’t have him in the England team. And then the game would come around, and he’d be nothing like his best, and I’d be sitting there thinking, ‘Oh come on, Glenn, help me out here. Give me something to work with.’ It felt like that on Saturday. As someone who has defended Mourinho against accusations of anti-football to see United play like that in their first real test of the season felt like, ‘Jeez, Jose – throw me a bone.’

United's only real chance of the game fell to Romelu Lukaku but he failed to convert it

United's only real chance of the game fell to Romelu Lukaku but he failed to convert it

Every top manager will win, lose and draw. Judge at the end of the season. Unfortunately, a team, manager or player is judged match by match. Even pundits who are ex-players do it. Pathetic. Smarto1, Salvador.

Mate, if you’re the smart one I’d hate to need professional advice in Salvador. It’s very easy to play the only grown-up in the village but how are pundits, writers, fans – and most of all owners – supposed to suspend judgement until the end of the season? A campaign has a narrative that unfolds and invites comment as it does. It would be like asking supporters in the ground not to respond to the action before them, until they have got home and watched each controversial call on replay.

Graham Poll wrote: 'It looked a yellow card but it was not a mandatory one and Martin Atkinson felt the game did not require a caution at that point. It was hard to disagree. Romelu Lukaku also caught Dejan Lovren in the face with his boot but it looked accidental, so Atkinson was correct to take no action. Lovren’s reaction was ridiculous but it didn’t fool Atkinson, whose overall display was impressive.' This is how and why United have won so many titles in the last 25 years. No mention of the Liverpool penalty not awarded by the 'impressive' Atkinson – but that wouldn't suit the agenda. Disgusting. BootleDodger, Liverpool.

And what agenda would that be? The one where we ask a former professional referee to give his opinion, and he does so? Here’s my take. I thought the first Lukaku foul was a booking; I thought the contact with Lovren was accidental and the player looked a fool rolling over and over as he did; and, yes, Atkinson missed a Liverpool penalty but I can only say that after several replays and I didn’t call it as such in real time. I’ll call this one, though: if you think these marginal calls and others like them are the reason United won 13 titles under Sir Alex Ferguson, you’re deluded.

I don't know what to say about Martin Samuel’s arrogance. So he wants us to believe he knows how to win the Premier League title better than Mourinho? An experienced multiple Premier League title-winning coach set out to get a draw because he feels that’s what will help him win the title in the long run and Samuel, an experienced writer, says that’s the wrong way to go about it. Wow. At least complain about the lack of entertainment or apparent negativity as some of your peers have done, but you just had to be Mr Knowitall. Clap for yourself. Pslik, United States.

So, as a title winner, everything Mourinho does is right and he cannot be wrong? I doubt even he believes that. All I have said is that there is a possibility that this is a season in which conventional numbers do not apply and a point against an inferior Liverpool team is not as good as it is nine times out of 10. I illustrated that in Tuesday’s column by showing a draw at Anfield in 2007-08 would have left Manchester United trailing Chelsea by two points on the final day of the season. As United won at Anfield that year, they led the table on goal difference and needed only to win at Wigan, which they duly did, while Chelsea played Bolton. So while most years a draw at Anfield is perfectly reasonable, in one it would not have been. I feel with the way Manchester City have set off this could be a year like that. You might find that arrogant. I think it’s common sense.

The overreaction to this result is utterly ridiculous. I was slightly annoyed that we gave Liverpool too much respect but it's a point away at Anfield. To say it's not a good point because of what City are doing is rubbish. It’s United's toughest game every season regardless of how good or bad both teams are and 99 per cent of fans if offered a point before kick-off would have taken it. And after all, we were still only Lukaku's chance away from the perfect performance. Talk of Fergie mindlessly attacking every game is bull. He famously played for a draw at the Etihad in 2012 and once dropped Wayne Rooney, Nani and Javier Hernandez for Park Ji-sung, Darren Fletcher and Phil Jones at Anfield. Oliver Holt called Mourinho the enemy of football – utter tripe. Thommyb, Swadlincote.

I think if you read Ollie’s piece he referenced that this was the sort of performance that earned Mourinho his reputation as the enemy of football, rather than called him that himself. Personally, I feel the true over-reaction comes from fans such as yourself who cannot imagine that what was true one year might not apply 12 months later. I don’t know if you like cricket Thommy, but if you do you will remember a time when 250 runs was considered a very good first day Test score. And then Australia came along, determined to score at four an over while smacking any early looseners to the boundary and now, anything less than 350 is considered disappointing. Things change. And now, here’s a completely excellent overreaction. We really don’t get enough quality drum and bass on here, you know.

Mourinho went for a point and got his point. Not surprising when you consider Jurgen Klopp has a better record head-to-head and Liverpool have the best record against the top six teams. With a physical presence missing in midfield and a massive hole at left back, it's more surprising that you expected anything else from this game, Martin. The Real Chosen One, Norwich.

What hole at left-back? He had Daley Blind on the bench. As for this missing physical presence, do you really think Nemanja Matic is a shrinking violet? And beside him is Ander Herrera, who I think is only marginally less tricky than Dennis Wise when it comes to putting it about. If we’re talking missing players, I’d say the absence of Lallana and Mane for Liverpool tops them all. And they seem to have been conveniently forgotten by many on here.

I would be genuinely interested to hear from a United fan who travelled to Anfield on Saturday. Were you happy with that? With the point; the performance; the entertainment level; the amount of money you spent to get there, get in, and on food and drink. This is not a loaded question. I am genuinely asking. Satisfied? Billy, Jakarta.

Billy, I was at the game and I have been to five others this season. I said to my pals the night before that Jose will set up to not lose, when we should be setting up to win. I was gutted on the day. Had we lost 3-0 then the set up couldn’t justify the tactics, but a draw away from home does. It’s a problem. Last season only Spurs lost fewer games but we finished sixth – why, because we drew 15 games. If we had attacked more in seven of those, won them and lost the rest that would have been a top-four finish. Playing not to lose draws games and earns one point. Martin Samuel’s report is spot on. Byron100, Manchester.

First of all, thanks to Billy for posing such an interesting question and to Byron for such an honest reply. I thought United did try to attack in a lot of those drawn games last season – they threw the kitchen sink at Burnley for instance – but I respect your view as someone who goes most weeks. I notice many of the most vociferous defenders of Saturday’s performance did not rise to Billy’s challenge. It’s easy to be philosophical sat in your armchair. Anyway, back to Billy.

I agree. We, Liverpool, were there for the taking on form coming into the game and for me that’s two points dropped by United. Setting up not to lose games was exactly the reason Liverpool lost the league to you in 2008-09 under Rafa Benitez. That season Liverpool lost only two games all season, beat United home and away, and still finished four points behind due to drawing so many games. Billy, Jakarta.

Correct – 11 in total, the same number drawn by Middlesbrough, who were relegated.

Perfect tactics from Jose with all the headless chickens running around saying he is the enemy of football. Utter nonsense. This was the perfect hatchet job on one of our bitter rivals, and the more Klopp whinges the more you realise we achieved everything we set out to do. At full-time Liverpool were left frustrated and more importantly deflated with no momentum going forward. They are still seven points behind us and nine off the top – they know their season is effectively over and it’s a bitter pill to swallow. MU1977MU, Bath.

Big deal. Who saw Liverpool as title contenders this season? It’s not Liverpool you have to worry about; it’s Manchester City.

Manchester City have been banging them in and are the team to catch at the top of the pile

Manchester City have been banging them in and are the team to catch at the top of the pile

Mourinho will not make my club great again because great for Manchester United is not what he is about. Sir Alex Ferguson would never go in front of the French media and announce that he will not and does not want to finish his career at Manchester United, particularly when he has failed to take three points off an enemy that were there for the taking. Babs7falmouth, Truro.

What I cannot understand is why it is immediately presumed that he would be a target for Paris Saint-Germain. This is a club that has just spend £362m on two crackerjack forwards. Do you think anyone in Paris watching the game at Anfield would have thought, ‘That’s the coach we need to get the most from our investment.’ I think Mourinho is a fine coach – but I’m not sure that what he does, and the way he builds teams, is in accord with what PSG want right now.

As it stands, Jose is second in the league and just two points off City. If we beat Liverpool at Old Trafford that would be four points from two games, a fair return against our rivals. Barryj, Bahrain.

Only if City draw or lose at Anfield, Barry. If they win – and they beat them 5-0 at the Etihad – that’s two points dropped. I’m really struggling to understand why people can’t compute this.

So one team didn't attack and was defensive, right? The pertinent question is that as Liverpool were playing at home why didn't they just attack relentlessly and play football like Arsenal or Manchester City would? Barcelona don't care if you put 11 behind the ball. They just keep attacking. Seems to me Mourinho and his pragmatic, tactically sound, disciplined football can be a soft target for journalists looking to make a point. Three Oil Clubs, United Kingdom.

Seems to me you don’t know what you’re looking at. Liverpool did not attack relentlessly because Manchester United have much the better team. Had Mourinho played like that against Real Madrid, Barcelona, even Manchester City, it would be understandable. I wouldn’t criticise his Inter Milan team, or Chelsea under Roberto Di Matteo, for their performances in the Nou Camp. But this was Liverpool. United are better than Liverpool. Every Liverpool fan I spoke to that day feared they were going to get stuffed. Their only chance, they all agreed, was if United were too conservative.

I read this on another website, so can't claim it as mine but it’s brilliant. “If Mourinho directed Die Hard it would've been 90 minutes of Bruce Willis hiding in a broom cupboard before coming out at the end to celebrate his tactics for not getting shot.” Paul, Worthing.

Paul – that is magnificent, and I love your modesty for not taking the glory. Just for that, have something quite marvellous in an upwardly direction. But first, let’s do a few quick ones.

Last year, Chelsea lost against Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United and still they won the league. However, when United do not win against these teams, you think they will have to if they are to win the league. Romelu, United Kingdom.

Might it be that each season is different? Just a thought.

Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles. Judge Mourinho at the end of the season. ILLRE, Singapore.

Ooh, you're so wise. If only Manchester United, Barcelona, Brazil, Real Madrid and about a thousand other examples didn’t utterly contradict your tired little soundbite.

I don't know the kind of play all these writers want from Manchester United. Liverpool are clearly useless, playing against the big teams in England as if it’s war, before dashing points to the small teams. Seems they only train for United all season. Look at Stoke now after playing their all against United. Henry221, Los Angeles.

You’ve got the money, the power – and now it’s a crime when teams try against you?

United are seven points ahead of Liverpool, have scored 21 to Liverpool’s 13 and conceded two to Liverpool’s 12. Carry on Jose, you’re doing a great job. Clear Out, Manchester.

Yes, if your sole ambition this season is to finish above Liverpool.

On Sunday Supplement, Martin’s colleagues disagreed with his interpretation of events, not just one, both of them. But as usual Martin thinks he is correct. Northernladdie, United Kingdom.

Well, I wouldn’t be much of a columnist if my entire belief system crumbled in the face of two people disagreeing with me; particularly as I was the only person around that table who was actually at the match.

There’s lots of poets in football; but poets don't win titles. Mozarella, Telford.

Depends what titles you mean. The Pullitzer Prize for Poetry. Poets win that. And now, for Paul from Worthing – this.

A point was OK at Anfield but our football worried me. There was just no creativity and my initial fears about Lukaku became a reality. He is only really good against the lower teams. Lovren had him in his back pocket the entire time and he is an average defender at best. We need Paul Pogba, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly back ASAP, and Jesse Lingard needs to be loaned out. AJ, Manchester.

Lingard was ineffectual when he came on, but I hardly think that amounts to dumping him. It was not as if United were playing with the ambition to bring the best out of him. The same with Lukaku, although I do think in the biggest games when chances are limited the greatest strikers take the one opportunity that falls their way. A bigger problem was that he did not hold the ball up well enough for the midfield to join and take advantage, although he did spend much of the game surrounded. Look, he’s done superbly for United so far and I don’t think it is fair to dismiss him on the back of one blank.

Mourinho won’t care what Samuel or anyone else thinks, he’s his own man and he knows what he’s doing. Not many teams will leave Anfield with three points this season. Good result for us considering we have players out and others carrying slight injuries. CitezenSmith, Manchester.

I’m sure Jose won’t care what I write, but the feeling is mutual. I’ve never greatly cared about being on the right or wrong side of a manager. Briefly, I had a reasonable line of communication with Jose, but then it stopped. Something I wrote had upset him, apparently, but he won’t say what. I’ve asked him about it, without success or further revelation. OK. It would have been good to have that contact away from formal press conferences, to be able to have a longer or more detailed conversation about Saturday with him, for instance, to better understand his point of view – maybe even represent it – but it’s not much of a relationship if one side can only toe the line. I’d like to think most people in football appreciate I’ll call it as I see it. Sometimes I’ll be on their side, others not. I’ve defended Jose, I’ve criticised him. But you can’t do this job and be cowed. As for a team not leaving Anfield with three points, you’ll find Swansea and Crystal Palace did last season, while Sevilla and Burnley have got the same result as Manchester United there this year. So half of Liverpool’s home games so far – three of six – have been draws. What United did wasn’t exactly special.

The anti-Mourhinio hate continues. Liverpool are seven points behind and Klopp is yet to win anything. Instead of the press asking why are Liverpool without silverware in decades, United are the issue. Pathetic – who cares what the English media writes? Gandi1, London.

Well you do, obviously.

Samuel at it again I see. It was an excellent point by United. You should start reporting on something else, maybe cooking, as you clearly don’t know anything about football. Ninety nine per cent of fans would have settled for a point at Anfield – just ask any Arsenal fan. The Judge, United Kingdom.

So that’s your frame of reference, is it? Doing better than Arsenal. Have we opened a door to the past? Look up the table – there’s your rivals.

When we thump them 4-0 at Old Trafford, we will look back at these negative articles and laugh. Dare To Zlatan, United Kingdom.

And you’ll still be a goal behind Manchester City, genius, who beat Liverpool 5-0 at home.

United won away at Benfica this week - where returning Mourinho was the centre of attention

United won away at Benfica this week - where returning Mourinho was the centre of attention

I would love Mauricio Pochettino as our manager. Mourinho is no longer a big-game manager with his underwhelming tactics. DelzMUFC, London.

I think that’s premature, and harsh. Pochettino went to Real Madrid this week and did a job to get a point. He played a back five, he conceded possession. No harm in settling in some games. It depends on your quality and that of the opposition.

Had United gone there and got slapped the way Arsenal did, the headlines would have been negative. A point away from home is also negative, so I guess the only way to please Premier League fans is to play attacking football week in week out then even if you lose it’s fine. Banta FC, London.

So that’s the choice, is it? Lose 4-0 or draw 0-0. How about you play well and win because you’ve got better players? Is that no longer an option?

The Anyone But United lot hate it because we perfected a game plan and came away with a point. Big deal, so we didn’t play well – but we’re not going to play well for 38 games a season. It was a good point at a ground where most teams will lose. Did anyone really expect Jose to play to Liverpool’s strengths and allow them space to counter? Only Arsenal would be naive enough to do that. When Chelsea or Manchester City go to Anfield and get a point let’s see if they get the same level of criticism. If United had scored and won it would have been called the perfect away performance. Thegdog80, United Kingdom.

If, if, if. When, when, when. The fact is, United didn’t score and you have no clue what City will do at Liverpool. Yes, had United won playing as they did, they would have been given credit for an economical victory. But they didn’t, they got the same result at Anfield as Burnley – so they haven’t been praised the same way.

Of the current crop of managers, Mourihno is the most experienced and decorated. He knows what he's doing and has managed the team well. United currently have Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rojo, Michael Carrick, Pogba, Bailly and Fellaini out injured with Luke Shaw and Ashley Young recently coming back from long-term injuries. Phil Jones, Marcus Rashford and Lukaku were carrying knocks yet the team did brilliantly. Come the end of season, Jose will be lifting the trophies and critics counting the failures of their teams. Mont Blanc, Manchester.

No-one has a good word to say for Shaw when he plays and now he’s the reason you can’t attack at Liverpool? Do me a favour. The same with Ibrahimovic, who wasn’t expected to be seen again in a United shirt when the season started. Fellaini is an understudy. Carrick an understudy’s understudy. There is no guarantee Rojo starts either. Guaranteed first-team players, you were missing Bailly and Pogba. Liverpool were without Mane and Lallana. You cite Young, but he played 90 minutes. These excuses are laughable.

Another load of nonsense from Martin Samuel. A point away to Liverpool at Anfield is a very good result. Arsenal were 3-0 down after 20 minutes earlier this season. Both Manchester City and Tottenham lost there last year while Chelsea only drew. All those teams will be lucky if they come away from Anfield with three points. Because it's Mourinho it’s a bad result. Utter tripe. I’ll take a draw anytime. Sooty Dog Snipes, Lytham.

Would you? So all this stuff I read on here – we’re back, we’re number one, glory, glory Man United – is just, what? Bravado? In reality, you’re happy with a point against a team lying in eighth place, a team that United supporters claim are inferior – indeed that many said they were going to beat easily before the game. And now you’ll take a draw at Anfield, anytime? So you’re not better – or you are? I’m confused. Maybe one for another day. To say farewell, the late, great Marcus Intalex. Much missed, never bettered. Until next time.

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