Liverpool travel to Old Trafford today in what will likely be a telling contest for second place, and Jürgen Klopp is open to any tactics from his opposite number.
Jürgen Klopp has only been beaten by Jose Mourinho once in eight meetings between the two managers across leagues. But the German maintains a healthy respect for his nemesis and his tactics despite the stats, and particularly the swell of criticism that fell on Mourinho after their last contest back in October.
That game ended as a 0-0 draw at Anfield, with Mourinho employing a clearly defensive stratagem. Or “parking the bus” as most called it. It’s a tactic the Portuguese is well known for. And pretty good at, to be fair.
Man United training tactics for Liverpool to stop Salah. pic.twitter.com/fKaXR5Nlb1
— Soccer Memes (@SoccerMemes) March 10, 2018
But while most view it as a more cunning, or even cowardly aspect of Mourinho’s philosophy, Klopp refuses to criticise it in the lead up to Saturday’s game at Old Trafford. In fact the Liverpool boss went so far as to say that he wouldn’t be against putting on the brakes himself if it means a win for his side in such a crucial game:
“I’ve no problem with defending – I know how the situation is, that teams play a specific type of football, but it’s all about winning and there are different ways to win football games.
“In the last few years Manchester United have been more successful than us. We respect that, and this United team has a specific way of playing football.
“If we have to defend there, we have to do so with all we have. It’s not a battle of systems or philosophies – just two very good teams facing each other.
“When they attack, I hope all my players are involved. If people want to say that’s parking the bus, I’m okay with that.
“There are reasons they have two more points than us. We don’t want to show how good we are, we just want a good result.”
6 – Mohamed Salah had a hand in more goals than any other player in the @premierleague in February (six – four goals, two assists), scoring in all three of his matches in the month. Awarded. pic.twitter.com/oKkUg1BkkM
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 9, 2018
Form, if not history, on Liverpool’s side
It’s true that Liverpool stand on the losing end of the tally between the two sides in the history of the competition. Liverpool have 55 wins as against United’s 67 in the 170 times they’ve clashed in the League. In fact, the Merseysiders haven’t lost to any other team in the competition as much as they have against United.
Even Jürgen Klopp’s record against Mourinho, as good as it may look on the face of it, shrinks a tad when you consider it’s his lowest win rate against managers he’s played five times or more.
And yet, ultimately, form is what matters with predictions isn’t it. While United may sit two points clear of Klopp’s side in the coveted second spot, it’s Liverpool who have stood out all season among the two sides. There’s no doubt that their attack is second to just leaders Manchester City’s.
Liverpool have now scored 200 goals in the Premier League under Jurgen Klopp.
Sadio Mane the scorer of the 200th. pic.twitter.com/QYLRLqCLfO
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 3, 2018
And that trend continues further back, too. Only Man City have scored more in the League since Jürgen Klopp’s appointment. And that stat is only accentuated when juxtaposed against Mourinho’s figures. United may boast the second best defensive record this season, but that doesn’t matter as much in a must-win game.
Manchester United’s attack has clearly been struggling for form and coherence off late. Sanchez’s arrival hasn’t had the impact Mourinho had hoped for, with the Chilean perhaps their poorest performer in recent games.
And when you consider that with the fact that Liverpool have kept four consecutive clean sheets in all competitions, and that Virgil van Dijk will stroll into Old Trafford having been rested over mid-week, United will have their work cut-out. Mourinho would likely not dare to start on the back-foot at home.
Klopp will look to play to his side’s strengths – and that means Salah will be key
As to how Liverpool will approach the game today, there’s little doubt about that. Mohamed Salah has been a revelation since his re-entry into the Premier League from Roma this season. The Egyptian has been near unstoppable off late, scoring his 32nd goal of the season against Newcastle last weekend.
And against United, it’s clear that one of the key battles on the pitch would likely be between Salah and David De Gea in United’s goal. With Liverpool’s speed and fluency in attack, their counters will be key to Jürgen Klopp’s gameplan. And Salah will be the spearhead.
Salah named @premierleague Player of the Month for February. 🏆💫
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 9, 2018
“You have to bring the right things on the pitch constantly. Counter-pressing against such a strong counter-attacking team is so important,” said Klopp about his likely approach to Saturday’s clash.
“We have to play football against a very strong side. If they defend deep it won’t make our life easier, but I don’t think they will do that all the time.
“It’s not an attacking team against a defending team. They have massive quality and I respect that.
“It’s a good moment to go there, but it’s still unbelievably difficult. They have outstanding quality and are at home, they’re a very experienced team with a very experienced manager.”