Thursday 12 December 2019

Liverpool 0 Manchester United 1: Van Gaal won the battle managerial battle with Klopp

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (L) greets Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal (R) ahead of the game
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (L) greets Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal (R) ahead of the game

Jurgen Klopp and Louis van Gaal renewed hostilities on Sunday as Liverpool hosted Manchester United in one of the most eagerly-anticipated Premier League games of the season.

Here, we look at how the former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich managers fared:


After conceding three against Arsenal in midweek, Klopp looked to tighten his midfield by replacing flying winger Jordon Ibe with defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva.

Klopp kept Christian Benteke on the bench and kept faith with Roberto Firmino up front even though the big Belgian had scored in his last three appearances against the visitors. United conceded three in midweek too, but Van Gaal named the same starting XI that drew at St James' Park. MemphIs Depay has looked good in his last two substitute appearances, but Van Gaal opted against recalling his countryman, and Juan Mata even though he scored twice at Anfield last season.


Van Gaal said in his pre-match interview that Klopp's selection suggested Liverpool would not take as many risks and he was right. Liverpool's primary objective was to keep the likes of Anthony Martial, Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney quiet. With Lucas stationed in front of the back four, they did exactly that. The hosts grew in confidence as the match progressed. United, one the other hand, looked like their plan was to keep the ball and try to prise the vulnerable Liverpool defence open. It was only in the last half an hour that they looked threatening. Herrera struggled to get on the ball and thread passes through the back four. Mata would have perhaps had a bigger impact had he been deployed in the number 10 role behind Wayne Rooney.


Klopp was his usual animated self at the side of the pitch. The enigmatic German barely sat down throughout the match and gesticulated to his players and the referee on a regular basis. Van Gaal, on the other hand, sat on the bench all afternoon, as he does almost every match.


Van Gaal was forced into a first-half change when Ashley Young hobbled off with what looked like a hip problem. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson replaced him which gave United more balance as he slotted in at left-back and Matteo Darmian shifted to his natural position of right-back. Van Gaal's introduction of Mata proved vital as he supplied the cross for the goal. Depay can count himself unlucky to have been made to wait until the 72nd minute to come on after his impressive showings off the bench against Sheffield United and Newcastle. Klopp waited far too long to bring on Christian Benteke as Chris Smalling and Daley Blind were low on confidence and needed a physical test.


Van Gaal and Klopp had a head-to-head record of two wins each from their time in Germany, but it was the United manager who had the last laugh here. His team once again failed to dazzle, but the introduction of Mata proved vital. Van Gaal's unwavering support of Wayne Rooney proved wise too as he showed superb technique to score the winner.

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