Much has been said of the superior situation Liverpool are in under Jurgen Klopp as they head into their rivalry match against Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, but the fact that the side has yet to beat the Red Devils with the German manager on the sidelines lingers over the head of England’s biggest club match.
Klopp has been the manager at Anfield since October 2015. In his first season, replacing Brendan Rodgers, he did oversee a win against Mourinho’s Chelsea which in hindsight helped oust the Portuguese manager from the London club for the second time in his career.
But since Mourinho joined United? Nothing. Klopp, in fact, didn’t beat Louis van Gaal in the league either, losing 1-0 at Anfield with his side. However, he did manage to write down one triumph against Manchester United, helping Liverpool knockout their biggest rivals in the 2016 Europa League, the first-ever meeting between the two teams in a European competition.
Since Mourinho took over United Liverpool has turned into the more fashionable side, yet as Mourinho has noted more than once – still without titles. Two top 4 finishes, two European finals against Spanish sides, but no titles. This year it might change, although keeping up or fending off Manchester City seems like an incredibly difficult task.
Comparing the overall success in the league since Mourinho took over at Old Trafford gives Liverpool the edge: 193 points compared to 176 through 92 matches. But in the head to head? Two draws (Goalless) at Anfield, one draw and a 1-2 loss at Old Trafford, when Mourinho made quick work of Klopp’s naive tactics in last season’s matchup.
Mourinho has a very clear approach to big matches away from home, especially when he’s the underdog: Defend, defend, defend. He usually begins opening things up at around 70 minutes, if the match is still going in the direction he’s aiming for.
Liverpool? Klopp is a bit more versatile and rarely cagey in his approach. I think that Naby Keita in the lineup is a must. United, while not possessing high quality in defense, do have numbers to put in front of David de Gea, which means not a lot of room for Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to run behind. Keita, and using Roberto Firmino in a more advanced role compared to how he’s been deployed this season, is at the basis of a Liverpool win and recapturing the top spot in the league.
For United, it’s always hard to judge – at this point it’s unclear what exactly Mourinho wants to get out of this side, and whether he can against quality opposition. Whatever it is, losing at Anfield, something that hasn’t happened to the side since 2013, would be the official end of any Champions League qualification dreams the side has.