THE DAILYMOAN – The battle to knock them off their perch
MANCHESTER UNITED V LIVERPOOL 10TH OF MARCH 2018
12.30 KICK OFF LIVE:
Of course, we’re all aware of the huge game that is upon us tomorrow, with Liverpool visiting bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford in a 12.30 kick off. It is not merely a battle of dynasties of a by-gone era or second versus third. No, it’s much more important than that, its a battle of football ideology. Attacking entertaining football, dubbed “heavy metal ” by Jurgen Klopp versus the boring, over tactical over baring style of Jose Mourinho.
Liverpool have a golden opportunity to lay down a marker and prove to all the doubters that they and their leader Jurgen Klopp are the real deal.
Tomorrow’s showdown can determine whether it is merely just opinion or fact that ‘The Red’s’ are the second best team in the country this season. The title race maybe dead in the water, however, the battle to show that Liverpool can really challenge Pep Guardiola’s magnificent Manchester City next season, is very much alive.
Currently, in the league, Liverpool sit in third place, two points behind Manchester United in second and 18 points behind galloping leaders Manchester City. I believe that such a chasm between Liverpool and top spot has been down to a very rocky start to the current season, for matters both on and off the pitch as well Man City’s brilliance.
There was the situation with Philippe Couthino handing in his transfer request the day before Liverpool’s first league game away at Watford. Which to be fair, was really out of Jurgen Klopp’s hands and the German appeared to have dealt very well with the situation.
Then for matters on the pitch, there was Liverpool’s defensive crisis and the very public and very botched attempt to sign Virgil van Dijk to plug in the holes. The curious fallacy that Alberto Moreno had changed his ways was another howler for the manager. Who can forget the circus surrounding the goalkeepers? Unlike the Couthino situation, these matters were very much in Klopp’s hands and handled poorly.
Fast forward six months and thankfully those issues seem to have been resolved. Philippe Coutinho has finally got his move, allegedly threatening to down tools if he was not allowed to join Barcelona for an insane £102m (initially), with that figure rising to £142m, pending on clauses. Thankfully the absence of Couthino seems to have embellished Liverpool’s attack and great credit must be given to Jurgen Klopp.
The Liverpool manager has finally made his decision on the goalkeeper with 24-year-old Loris Karius, snatching the number one goalkeeper’s jersey from Simon Mignolet. Which must be a relief to all involved, as it was the most drawn-out debacle of a manager replacing a goalkeeper.
Most importantly, the defensive crisis seems to have eased dramatically, with Alberto Moreno banished to the bench and Klopp settling on the excellent pair of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson in the full-back positions. The addition of Virgil van Dijk has been a massive calming influence on the back five, after a turbulent start to his Anfield career the Dutchman appears to have settled in nicely.
This is definitely a different Liverpool from the start of the season, a unit that’s growing together with each game. Even after the calamitous 2-2 home draw with Tottenham in February, Liverpool travelled to St Mary’s in their next game, against a Southampton side battling for survival and came away with a professional 0-2 win. The Liverpool of old would have probably surrendered the two-goal lead.
Manchester United have had their own problems this season, the footballing philosophy of Jose Mourinho has come under huge criticism from the club’s fans and ex-players. Public spats include those with United legend Paul Scholes.
Mourhino is not the most endearing of fellows, these days he tends to give off a cantankerous vibe and seems to blame everything and everyone else for any problems that arise.
The Portuguese coach, who I might add, has won the Premier League on three occasions, is a tactical maestro. However, he appears to be tearing up the Manchester United rulebook, page by page with everything he touches in the job.
Jose Mourinho imposes on his teams a cautious and nervy approach which would make Eastenders mildly entertaining. He would rather stop a side dead in its tracks, whether it is home or away, than go out and heaven forbid, have a real go.
Another bone of contention for the Manchester United manager’s critics is that his style does not appear to be youth friendly.
Jose Mourinho comes from a school of coaching that tends to blind his players with science with over baring instructions. Younger players, especially British and Irish ones, would rather express themselves on the park than chase down a player or a zone on the pitch. This tends to ward the manager from utilising young talent at previous clubs. This of course flys in the face of everything that Manchester United stand for as they are a club with a history of embellishing youth.
The current football is definitely not the ‘Manchester United Way’. Gone seem to be the days of the fearless approach under Alex Ferguson that United fans craved and have become accustomed to. No matter what stadium they played in, the tactics were the same. Attack, Attack, Attack. This would make Manchester United a joy to watch. It didn’t matter if you were watching them, hoping they’d win or lose, you were watching.
With Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho, you could not have two managers with such a polarising approach to football. They are the personification of how their teams express themselves on the park. It’s ironic, today’s Liverpool bear all the hallmarks of the great United teams gone by and Manchester United seem to resemble the boring over the top tactical approach of Gerard Houllier’s side that won nearly every cup bar the Champions League and failed to win the league in the early 2000’s.
The significance of tomorrow’s game is huge for a number of reasons.
Tomorrow, If Liverpool lose, then Jose Mourinho and his ‘anti football’ will be somewhat vindicated. This cannot happen.
Liverpool must prove they are the really a club that is indeed capable of challenging for honours, not only to the supporters or the media but to the star players at the club and those that may be earmarked to join in the Summer.
Mo Salah has been a revelation, signed by Liverpool from Roma for what now seems to be a paultry €42m rising to €50 pending on clauses. The Egyptian magician has netted 24 goals in 28 appearances in the Premier League this season. Liverpool are understandably keen to tie Salah down to an improved long-term contract, which I’m sure the attacker will only be too happy to oblige. However, with all that money the player will accumulate, wealth will not be the issue. No. It will be the accumulation of silverware and playing in a team that can challenge for silverware. When not If, Barcelona and Real Madrid eventually come knocking, it will be the lure of trophies and not the salary offered that will be the selling point.
I know deep down in my heart, that Liverpool have been the second-best team in the league this season, tomorrow is a chance to prove it to everybody. It’s a case getting carried away, I’m well aware that in recent years Liverpool have a knack of taking one step forward and two steps back when previously in a similar position. There is still much work to be done in the Summer, positions need strengthening and dead wood needs clearing. So the team is far from the finished article.
Liverpool are certainly building something, let’s just hope it’s not a plateau!
Dunnie and a little help from Frank