We can blame the referee. We can blame the lack of VAR. We can blame whatever we want.
The fact of the matter is that we lost to Manchester United. As painful as that is it is the truth of the matter.
Mourinho did what he always does, he employed a specific game plan to counter the strengths of his opponent.
He rightly identified Salah as our main attacking threat and nullified him for the entire game. The onus was then on us to bypass Salah and utilise the focus placed on him and expose the centre of the field, something we failed to do, that is our fault.
Any manager who sees Lovren in the starting eleven will instantly target him as a weakness and attack it. That is what he did and we failed to deal with it. Lovren will never be good enough to play for Liverpool, ever. Many have said we should have got van Dijk to track him but Lovren doesn't have the game intelligence to constantly change field position and maintain his positional awareness, he has proven this many many times during his time here. Lukaku (who i actually think isn't that good myself) was the pimp and Lovren was his bi*ch.
Alexander Arnold was not on his top form but i don't blame him for the defeat, he is still young and doesn't have the benefit of the game experience that Lovren has. Yes he was targeted but the fact that Lovren was playing as the right sided centre back was a big part of that problem. I feel that van Dijk should have started as the right sided centre back to protect Arnold as Robertson doesn't need protection. Again though, wherever you move Lovren to, Mourinho would target that space as a weakness to be exploited and rightly so.
The problem we have is that we do not have 2 centre backs of sufficient quality to deal with the rigours and challenges of playing Premier League football. Virgil van Dijk has been a revelation but he can't do the work of 2 centre backs, nobody is that good. Personally i would have gone with Joe Gomez instead of Lovren. To have Arnold and Lovren on the same side of the defensive unit was a big mistake in my eyes, a mistake that effectively cost us the game.
Another mistake i feel was the inclusion of Can in centre midfield and Milner on the left. Henderson was an absolute must for me, especially in a game where the midfield battle was so crucial. Matic and McTominay bossed the middle and at no time were they pressurised by Can or Milner. The holes in the centre of midfield in the first half were gargantuan, Can effectively playing as a centre back for most of the first half. Matic became the pimp, Can became his bi*ch. Mourinho selected a midfield made of steel, we selected a midfield made of paper mache.
Once United had got the 2 goals it was job done as far as he was concerned, in came the low block (hence the 68% possession stats) and an invite to break them down, a tactic Mourinho has employed against us many many times (as Chelsea and United manager). A tactic that is frustrating but ultimately effective.
As much as i hate Mourinho that doesn't mean that i don't respect him as a manager. He saw weaknesses and he exploited them perfectly with a ruthless desire. As excellent as our progress has been under Klopp it is games like this that still show us we are 4-5 players short of getting to the top level. A centre back, a goalkeeper and a completely new midfield.
With all the midfielders we have purchased in the last five years i would never have thought i'd be advocating to rebuild an entire midfield.
Well, it's onto Watford next and let's get back on track. Still much to do but still progressing. This Summer will determine where we go from here.