Liverpool Klopp Manchester United
When the draws were made, the one that stood out the most was the that pitted two of England’s greatest foes in Liverpool and Manchester United. Yesterday night in a mouth watering encounter it was Liverpool who looked sharp and ready to mingle while United kept blowing cold and seems out of sorts.
This was a huge win, and a huge statement, too. And not just by Liverpool.
Yes, it was one of the best performances of the season under Jurgen Klopp. More than mere bragging rights, it encapsulated the energy of his regime, the hope for the future if he gets his team together and the promise once he has a tilt at a season from the first day of summer training to the last kick of the campaign. Yet it also spoke volumes about the mire that consumes Louis van Gaal at Manchester United, too.
These are clubs heading in opposite directions. Vibrant and furious as Liverpool were, so Manchester United were timid and conservative, bogged down by theory and caution. Roberto Firmino put this match beyond Manchester United with the second goal of the night, but it may be enough to secure the tie, too. United need a three-goal winning margin to progress, and Van Gaal’s team do not seem the type to win so convincingly against opposition with defensive resilience and high tempo.
Liverpool are far from a finished article, but they have both of those qualities, and certainly know what is at stake now against these opponents. Put simply: they got it. They rose to the occasion. From the day the draw was made Klopp saw the opportunity in this fixture. Van Gaal saw only another game. He misjudged the moment, and United’s bloodless display confirmed that. Maybe that is the difference, too. Van Gaal has signed up for another big club; Klopp wanted the jolt of English football, with all it entails.
United’s away fans are a faithful bunch, so they did not turn, despite the disappointment. Yet, one imagines, if Van Gaal sent his players out to perform as Liverpool’s did, there would be no question about the third year of his tenure. Liverpool do not have the class of the greats of olds – United or Liverpool – but they have an intensity that Old Trafford regulars would instantly recognise. They went at United, start to finish. They closed down, they harried, they took the game on, drove forward, dictated the pace and the midfield. How a young Steven Gerrard would have loved to play in a Klopp side. Looking at them on Thursday night, it is a shame that the timing was all wrong.
Ultimately, the two goal winning margin flattered United considerably. Take away David de Gea, and some loose finishing, and Klopp could have fielded his youth team at Old Trafford on March 17, and saved his energy for trying to overhaul United in the Premier League, too. Van Gaal needs to turn this around in the return leg. Not just the result, but the performance, the ambition of it, must wholly alter. He was employed to win the big games like this, to triumph in a battle of wits, to devise a game plan that brings the best from his players. It is hard to think who United’s tactics were intended to serve. Certainly not prodigy Marcus Rashford, exiled to a wide starting position, and substituted at half-time. The longer he is under Van Gaal’s direct influence, the less effective he appears.
Klopp won the battle of the coaches, and United’s players were simply steamrollered by Liverpool. Michael Carrick was brought on at half-time to oversee a switch to a defensive three, but ended up making the mistake for the vital second goal. His touch was poor, cutting out a Jordan Henderson cross, and he then compounded that error by trying to rectify it and losing his position. Adam Lallana cut the ball back and Firmino finished it at the near post. There were 17 minutes remaining but by then Anfield was at a crescendo and United had no reply.
Author: Moses Echodu
Moses is a Ugandan writer and blogger. Studied information technology with major interests in Journalism.He is passionate about sports but at times ventures into other fields
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