Thursday 23 January 2020

Mourinho the pundit hints at his plan to stop Klopp machine

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Getty Images
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Getty Images

Lawrence Ostlere

Only one team has managed to take any Premier League points from Liverpool this season: 20 games played, 19 won, no defeats, with only one solitary draw against Manchester United blotting the copybook.

That game in October, which finished 1-1, left Jurgen Klopp visibly frustrated, and afterwards the Liverpool manager criticised United for their defensive tactics, something he felt has been all too common at Old Trafford.

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Sitting in the Sky Sports studio watching Klopp's interview with interest was Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho had been the architect of several stiflings of Liverpool in his time in charge of United, and he was quick to explain why he thought Klopp might not be happy.

"Because he hasn't beaten Man United at Old Trafford," Mourinho said. "I think he didn't like the menu. He likes meat and he got fish, so he was not happy.

"(Liverpool) are much stronger playing against opposition that gives them chances of transitions and counter-attack and United, with the limitations they have at this moment, they play a different profile of game, they try to be solid at the back, they try not to give them chances in transition, they kept always three centre-backs in position, plus (Scott) McTominay and Fred who were always compact."

So as the two managers meet again at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium tomorrow evening, it might be that we already have a little insight into how Mourinho will approach the contest.

"For me, (Liverpool lack) quality as a team against the low block, which is sometimes a problem they have," he continued.

"They have this fantastic record of so many victories, but I think they have some limitations against teams with low blocks.

"They have fantastic results but sometimes they win just in the limits and they can smash opponents that play the way they like to play against. Jurgen clearly has a little bit of frustration."

This is likely to be another smothering effort intended to frustrate again.

Mourinho could well switch to a back three in order to contain Liverpool's attacking threat.

Crucial to United's strategy in October was nullifying the full-back duo of Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

United played a back three then, with wing-backs Ashley Young and Aaron Wan-Bissaka given instruction to close tightly on the Liverpool full-backs, even if it meant hunting high up the field.

Protection

Mourinho could try something similar with Serge Aurier and Ryan Sessegnon, letting Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen martial the Liverpool triumvirate of Salah-Firmino-Mane, with midfield protection from Eric Dier and Harry Winks.

That would leave three forward slots, and with Harry Kane yesterday ruled out for three months with an ankle injury they are likely to be filled by three of Dele Alli, Son Heung-min, Christian Eriksen and Lucas Moura, with the latter potentially to be left on the bench and used as an impact player.

Klopp occasionally makes tactical tweaks for these big games but they are normally subtle changes, and his fundamentals remain: high pressure, fast football, in the same 4-3-3 formation that has brought Liverpool the Champions League and to the edge of league glory for the first time in 30 years. It will be up to Mourinho to find a way to stop them. (© Independent News Service)

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