A whisker. A whisker away from a historic feat of equalling the all-time Premier League winning streak of 18 games. So close, yet so far for Liverpool.
A 1-1 draw at Old Trafford brought Liverpool's run to a disappointing end, seeing them drop points for the first time this season in the league.
If it hadn't been for Adam Lallana, who has been all but forgotten by the league leaders, it would have been a great deal worse. But the scoreline was far from the worst of Liverpool's worries.
Even before the game had kicked off, Liverpool looked in some trouble. Salah's ankle injury left many Liverpool supporters aghast, seeing Divock Origi's name in the starting lineup with the Egyptian dropping out of the squad altogether.
It felt like a pivotal moment before a ball had even been kicked.
In Salah's absence, Liverpool looked timid. They lacked bite and vigour, and Origi certainly failed to fill the void, an admittedly large one, that their No. 11 had left. They tried everything. At one point, Jordan Henderson even became a makeshift winger. But Liverpool were frustrated time and time again, with a lack of penetration from midfield and wide positions serving as the Reds downfall.
Salah has already scored six goals and got three assists in all competition this season, and while he hasn't quite looked at his riveting best, he hasn't needed to be until this point, and has still helped inspire Liverpool to the summit of the Premier League.
With such fine margins, Liverpool's lack of depth could be the difference between themselves and challengers Manchester City, whose vast fortunes have enabled them to build a squad as deep as it is strung with quality. But Liverpool don't enjoy such luxuries.
When Leroy Sane picked up an injury against Liverpool in the Community Shield in the early stages of this campaign, they merely drafted in Riyad Mahrez, a two-time Premier League winner and £60m acquisition. Whereas against Manchester United, Liverpool brought in Origi, a player who lacks the excitement, glamour and and simply the quality required to replace Salah.
A lifeless transfer window saw Liverpool fail to make any impact signings, despite revelling in the joy of their Champions League triumph back in June 2019.
If there was ever a time to provide backup for the likes of Salah, it was this summer, and their lack of dealings could become a huge issue. While the Egyptian is unlikely to be sidelined for long, this game has acted as a warning to Jurgen Klopp and those above him.
A lack of replacement for Salah against United undoubtedly contributed to Liverpool's sluggish performance in which Liverpool passed from side to side, again and again, largely to no avail. The dynamism and fluidity that Salah offers Liverpool was sorely missed.
So what is the answer? Well, maybe there isn't one. Not in Liverpool's current position. It looks as if they may have to wait until January to fix the issue. What they require is another X-factor star to call upon in times of need. With Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as the most viable current candidates, the lack of alternatives leaves a lot to the imagination for the Reds.
So while things remain rosy on Merseyside, there is still improvement required if Liverpool are going to establish dominance on the domestic and world stage.
Liverpool travel to Genk on Wednesday night, a game for which Salah may be fit, and with Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City to face in the coming weeks, they'll be hoping he returns sooner rather than later.
Source : 90min