Ibrahimovic Rises To Rescue United



Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his hot goalscoring streak with a late headed equaliser as Manchester United rescued a 1-1 draw against old foes Liverpool at Old Trafford.
James Milner's first-half penalty - punishing a ragged Paul Pogba's handball - had put Jurgen Klopp's side on course to shrug off their stuttering start to the year and reclaim second spot.
But, with seven minutes remaining, Antonio Valencia kept a late attack alive and Ibrahimovic rose again to the occasion, flexing his neck muscles to nod home via the crossbar, as an absorbing 50th Premier League encounter of these heavyweights ended level.


Liverpool - seven points behind leaders Chelsea - climb above Arsenal into third, while United - for whom record-hunting Wayne Rooney's wait goes on - stay sixth, a nine-game winning run that had rekindled title hopes halted but an unbeaten one stretched to 16 in all competitions.
Klopp had been forced to withdraw Joel Matip after failing to receive clearance from FIFA after his Africa Cup of
Nations dispute with Cameroon, while injured Nathaniel Clyne was replaced by teenager Trent Alexander-Arnold but Jordan Henderson returned to the starting XI and Philippe Coutinho was back on the bench.
Jose Mourinho deployed Ibrahimovic - who now has 13 goals in as many games - from the start, leaving Rooney on the bench, and had urged his side to be "faster and sharper" against their fiercest rivals.
The visitors, their luminous shirts set up as a diamond in midfield, settled the quicker but a string of early corners came to nothing and the sides - who played out a stodgy goalless draw back in October - probed and tested in the opening exchanges.


Anthony Martial quickened home pulses with an early dart into the box - a penalty appeal when he fell under Dejan Lovren's challenge swiftly dismissed - and then found Ibrahimovic waiting eagerly at the back post, the ball just evading the Swede's high boot (14).
Liverpool had another let-off when Simon Mignolet's blocked clearance, chased down by Ibrahimovic, looped ominously towards goal but the first real chance came with 20 minutes on the clock when Pogba raced onto
Henrikh Mkhitaryan's through-ball but dragged wide, Mourinho left grimacing on the touchline.


Lovren had already lost Pogba at two set-pieces but the Frenchman was culpable with consequences on 26, an ill-advised leap with his arm outstretched prompting referee Michael Oliver to point to the spot. Milner stepped up, cool in the cauldron, and summoned enough power to beat David de Gea's dive.


United were suddenly racked with nerves but Mignolet was soon forced into a smart stop as an Ibrahimovic free-kick flew over the wet turf (32) and the goalkeeper stood firm again to deny Mkhitaryan after Ragnar Klavan dithered.
Mourinho, planning to do and set-pieces to sort, headed down the tunnel early and might have felt fate's pull when he replaced Michael Carrick with Rooney at half-time.


Martial, teed up by Mkhitaryan, went agonisingly close (55) as the hosts attacked with increased urgency, but
Klopp called for reinforcements of his own and fit-again Coutinho fired a warning when a clever reverse pass afforded
Roberto Firmino a pop.


Rooney - watched on by Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham - had a sniff of goal number 250 when a ball
dropped loose on the edge of the box but the effort was tame and soon he was being chastised for a lusty challenge on Milner amid clamour for red.


Georginio Wijnaldum failed with a flying header as Liverpool fleetingly threatened to wrestle back the momentum, but up the other end, Rooney, unaware offside had been called, had another shot at history, forced Mignolet into another smart save with his half-volley.
But Liverpool's resolve finally broke with six minutes remaining. Substitute Marouane Fellaini flicked a header against the far post and Valencia powered in a cross that Ibrahimovic directed home off the underside of the bar.


Both sides pushed for a late winner as temperatures rose - the fourth official coming between Klopp and Mourinho after Firmino and Herrera clashed towards the end - but there was no final drama on the pitch, the points shared at the end of an enthralling encounter.


Player ratings
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Valencia (7), Jones (7), Rojo (6), Darmian (6), Herrera (7), Carrick (6), Pogba (5), Mkhitaryan (7), Martial (6), Ibrahimovic (7).
Subs used: Rooney (6), Mata (6) Fellaini (7)
Liverpool: Mignolet (8), Alexander-Arnold (6), Lovren (8), Klavan (6), Milner (7), Henderson (7), Can (6), Wijnaldum (7), Lallana (6), Firmino (6), Origi (6).
Subs used: Coutinho (7).
Man of the match: Dejan Lovren