Comment - Why Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho have just been given a timely hangover cure
It will not have taken long for the fire to be reignited inside the battered and bruised duo of Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho on Monday morning.
After a chastening Sunday afternoons that saw one superstar manager forced to apologise for losing his cool live on television after a disappointing result and the other inventing familiar excuses following a a somewhat humiliating defeat against their biggest rivals, the managers of Liverpool and Manchester United were given a timely reminder that this season still has so much to offer England’s two most successful clubs.
Klopp’s his on-air meltdown with Sky Sports reporter Patrick Davidson after a 1-1 draw against Everton at Anfield highlighted the pressure all top managers are under, with his subsequent apology ensuring he emerged from the incident with a little more dignity than Mourinho managed after his spat a few hours later.
The Premier League title was as good as wrapped up just 16 games into the campaign by Manchester City sumptuous performance amid their 2-1 victory against United at Old Trafford, with Mourinho’s post match claims that his side were cheated out of a draw by a poor refereeing decision lacking any credibility on a day when his team had been outclassed.
The ugly scenes inspired by Mourinho’s appearance in the opposition dressing room after the final whistle - when City coach Mikel Arteta is reported to have been left with blood streaming down his face following a heated fracas - left a nasty taste on a day when Pep Guardiola floored his old foe in wonderfully attractive fashion.
Yet the Premier League title race is has already become a sideshow for Klopp and Mourinho, who will now set their sights on Champions League glory.
Guardiola’s City are far too good for either Liverpool of United to compete with in this season’s Premier League, yet the clubs that have won the competition now known as the Champions League can dare to believe they could be the team lifting the most cherished trophy in European football high into the Kiev Sky in the final next May.
After a draw that pitched Real Madrid with Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea against Barcelona, Manchester City have been installed as firm favourites to win their first European Cup this season and it is hard to argue with that swift realignment of the odds.
City are playing the best football in Europe right now under the guidance of a coach with proven Champions League pedigree, with their place in the quarter-finals of the competition all but assured after they were paired with FC Basel in the last-16.
They should be joined at that stage of the competition by at least two of their domestic rivals, with United squaring off against Sevilla and Liverpool handed the challenge of overcoming FC Porto.
Neither tie will be easy to negotiate for the traditional giants of the English game, but the contrasting brands of football promoted by Mourinho and Klopp could conceivably pave the way to Champions League glory this season.
It may be hard to imagine a Liverpool side featuring the calamitous defensive talents of Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno and Dejan Lovren getting the better of Europe’s top sides in the first half of 2018, but imagine a scenario that sees Klopp sign centre-back Virgil van Dijk and a top quality full-back in January and their team could be transformed.
Liverpool’s forward line have proved to be hugely effective when they are firing on all cylinders and the cauldron of noise that is Anfield on Champions League nights can be a factor that shakes opposition into submission.
While United would not fancy their chances of overcoming Manchester City over two legs after their humbling at Old Trafford on Sunday, they could reach the final of this competition without the need to beat Guardiola’s side as Mourinho’s brand of attritional football is hugely effective at the back end of a competition where away goals can be so significant.
So even if Mourinho and Klopp woke up on Monday morning with hangovers from hell after miserable Sundays at the office, the lift to their spirits was not long in coming.
In a season when so many of Europe’s top clubs are juggling with unfamiliar insecurities, United and Liverpool should dare to believe this could be their year in the Champions League once again.
REVISED CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ODDS
Manchester City 16/5
Bayern Munich 4/1
Real Madrid 15/2
Manchester United 14/1