Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp wasn’t best pleased with only getting a point at Old Trafford against rivals Manchester United on Sunday.
That shows progress.
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Liverpool led early through James Milner‘s penalty kick but they couldn’t build on a positive first half showing and in the end Jose Mourinho and United pegged them back with a direct approach.
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In the dugout Klopp had harsh words for Mourinho after Ander Herrera and Roberto Firmino clashed on the pitch, and after the game he repeatedly pointed out United’s “long ball” approach late on and wanted to make a point of how well his team played.
With the point Liverpool have fallen seven points behind league-leaders Chelsea, but they are five points ahead of rivals United. Speaking to Sky Sports, Klopp was in no doubt his side were the better team.
“Very positive performance, we were the better side, played better football and had a better plan,” Klopp said. “We changed the system a little bit and we obviously had lineup problems a little bit but the boys did really well. We played good football. Unfortunately we only scored with the penalty but I think there were other situations where we could have been a bit more clinical. Especially the last 20 minutes, United, only long balls. It was difficult. I think we would have deserved three points today but we only take one and that is okay. The performance was good and you can see it is still intense for us at the moment but still playing good football.”
The German coach has now lost just one of his seven games against Mourinho as a manager and he outwitted the Portuguese coach once again as he lined Liverpool up in an unfamiliar diamond formation in midfield from the start.
It worked marvelously well as Adam Lallana stopped Michael Carrick from playing and the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial were isolated in the first half with Georginio Wijnadlum and Emre Can shutting down the wide flanks.
Without the injured Nathaniel Clyne, plus key playmaker Philippe Coutinho only fit enough for 30 minutes and Joel Matip not getting FIFA clearance for the game, Klopp will look back on this as a good point against a United side which had won nine games in a row in all competitions heading into this game.
He knew his side had upset many people predicting a United win before the game, but the sense of his team letting two points slip was still there.
“A lot of people expected the rolling wheel, Man United, to roll on. But today we were the stick and pulled it in,” Klopp said. “I am really fine with the performance and I know it was difficult after the game in midweek and all that stuff but we got a point and we have a good performance. Tomorrow when I wake up it feels much better than in this moment. In this moment it is two points somewhere, I don’t know where…”
Klopp’s project at Liverpool is in full-flow and being disappointed with a point at in-form United when you are without several key contributors is a sign that they are now ready to become not only perennial top four contenders put title challengers.