Jurgen Klopp had an interesting excuse for Liverpool’s spotty performance at Old Trafford in the 0-0 draw that saw the Reds move just a single point ahead of Manchester City in the Premier League standings.
Manchester United saw all three substitutions burned in the first half due to injuries, with Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Jesse Lingard all yanked before the break. Marcus Rashford was also clearly struggling, but was forced to stay on as the Red Devils couldn’t replace him. Liverpool also was forced to withdraw important striker Roberto Firmino amid the Manchester United problems, adding to the chaos.
According to the German, those replacements helped grind the game down, and as a result Liverpool couldn’t get into a flow.
“When we started the game it was brilliant actually,” Klopp said. “We started exactly like we wanted to start. It was direct, we played in behind, we wanted to be there, we followed the ball, we pressed high and it was really good. And then the injury crisis started. A lot of interruptions and things like that and it was obvious it cost us our rhythm.”
Klopp essentially believed that the personnel changes for Manchester United caused them to change their gameplan, and when that happened, Liverpool’s preparation went completely out the window. They appeared ready to handle what Manchester United was hoping to throw at them, but with the formational and personnel changes, Liverpool was unable to figure out the changes.
“We lost the rhythm and didn’t get it back,” Klopp told the media after the game. “We were in charge, we passed the ball around, [then] we lost the ball in the wrong moments or passed it through the box but couldn’t keep the ball there. We lost Bobby in the first half as well, which doesn’t help in general. Chipping the ball in behind, that’s important with the high last line, but we didn’t really do that.”
Klopp doubled down on his theory, saying that the Manchester United injuries hurt both sides and ruined each team’s game plan. “I would say if United played today with a full team like they played the last couple of weeks or so then it’s a completely different game, they [the Manchester United players] know exactly what they [want to] do, know where they pass, and that means we know as well where they pass. Then it was completely different, the whole game changed and that obviously was not good for us today.”
Unfortunately, while Klopp’s excuse makes sense on the surface, it also exposes a glaring gap in his managerial abilities. While it’s obvious that Liverpool’s tactical preparation for the match would require tweaking once Manchester United was forced into so many changes, they had all of halftime to adjust, and failed to do so. If Klopp believes that the early adversity for the opponent also affected Liverpool, that means he was frozen in time, unable to figure out a way to break down the new-look Red Devils on the fly. That’s a relatively bad look for Klopp who sees Liverpool drop points for the third time in four matches, allowing Manchester City to climb within just one of the Premier League table’s top spot.