Jose’s ugly Devils

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY IAN HER­BERT

JOSE MOUR­INHO WAS lost for words on Fri­day when he tried to say that he did not care if peo­ple found him less an­i­mated than Jur­gen Klopp. “I’m not on the touch­line to…” he said, wav­ing his arms around as he left the room to in­di­cate what he meant.

Klopp did, in­deed, take the eye as the min­utes ticked down on Mon­day night – star­ing at the op­po­si­tion warm-up as he al­ways does, lin­ger­ing on the pitch long af­ter Manch­ester United had left to hear their fi­nal in­struc­tions.

Some­thing new was build­ing here by then; a sus­pense about how the new An­field would feel un­der lights with 18,000 more packed in to the new top tier.

They’ve been talk­ing about that for a week or more around here. A black cat stalked the turf. A beau­ti­ful Har­vest Moon dom­i­nated the sky.

What Mour­inho had im­bued his team with was con­sid­er­ably less po­etic but very ef­fec­tive, though. He scowled, sniffed, stuffed hands in pock­ets and it was clear from the se­cond minute that he had sent his team out to win this game phys­i­cally.

That was the mo­ment that Mar­cus Rash­ford­went through James Mil­ner in what Steven Ger­rard al­ways used to call a ‘Wel­come to An­field’ mo­ment.

It was hard not to imag­ine that his man­ager’s words had been ring­ing in his ears as he leapt in.

United were tougher, stronger, uglier.

The pres­ence of Marouane Fel­laini in the deep mid­field never ful­fils that sense of what their sup­port­ers feel the spirit of Old Traf­ford should bring but few would not have taken the bub­ble of Liver­pool speed and in­ten­sity be­ing burst. It was a ne­ces­sity.

Mour­inho was fac­ing the side which had scored more goals than any in the Pre­mier league (73) since Klopp’s ten­ure be­gan a year ago.

He also be­gan the night with three points fewer than Louis van Gaal had man­aged at the same point last sea­son.

The pressers be­came the op­pressed and in­di­vid­u­als at the heart of Liver­pool were bul­lied out of pos­ses­sion. Emre Can, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino strug­gled to re­tain the ball.

A re-or­gan­i­sa­tion Mour­inho had ef­fected pushed Paul Pogba up be­hind Zla­tan Ibrahi­movich (that’s 6ft 3in be­hind 6ft 5in) and Jor­dan Hen­der­son felt it. The new­found qual­ity in his pos­ses­sion was not al­ways there.

Ibrahi­movic was booked for tak­ing out Sa­dio Mane and ex­uded that ca­sual in­dif­fer­ence he has. An­der Her­rera rolled Coutinho.

That was the sum to­tal of the part he played, one badly mis­cued header be­side. Ash­ley Young talked his way into a book­ing. His con­ver­sa­tion with the ref­eree ran the course of the first half. United were loud, out there.

It didn’t help Liver­pool that the Daniel Stur­ridge enigma was so far from be­ing solved.

As Jamie Car­ragher said last week, his goalscor­ing record – 55 goals be­fore this, his 100th game – is com­men­su­rate with that of a Liver­pool great. But a long ball Can put across for him drib­bled off his foot and out of play.

He didn’t an­tic­i­pate a ball James Mil­ner put into his path. There was lit­tle more to say of the English­man. His night was over be­fore the hour.

At one stage, both Klopp and his as­sis­tant Zeljko Bu­vac paced the tech­ni­cal area de­mand­ing bet­ter.

Klopp ar­rived for the se­cond half sev­eral min­utes be­fore his play­ers. It seemed to be him say­ing: ‘I’ve said my piece, now sort it out’ and his play­ers tried.

David de Gea re­quired a save of out­stand­ing qual­ity to palm away Can’s shot in the box just be­fore the hour.

Even finer was his leap to make the right-handed finger­tip touch which sent Coutinho’s 30-yard shot clear of his left hand post.

The qual­ity of An­to­nio Va­len­cia’s tackle on Firmino seven min­utes should not be for­got­ten. But the red tide was turned.

It was what Wayne Rooney can bring that United had missed when he ar­rived to take up Rash­ford’s po­si­tion on the right with 15 min­utes to play.

Mour­inho’s as­sis­tant Rui Faria spent a lot time talk­ing him through some writ­ten in­struc­tions but the equa­tion wasn’t com­pli­cated.

The miss­ing fac­tor was skill and touch, some­thing only Her­rera had brought to any de­gree.

Such so­phis­ti­ca­tion didn’t ar­rive. Rooney was scram­bling around in the right back berth, try­ing to seize back pos­ses­sion, by the end.

That was just be­fore Young was pushed off the pitch by Can as he made his own sub­sti­tu­tion last a few more pre­cious sec­onds. Not pretty and not mem­o­rable but nec­es­sary.

There was no an­i­ma­tion from Mour­inho for Klopp; just a hand­shake be­fore he marched away down the tun­nel, ob­sta­cle cleared amid these dif­fi­cult early months in the foothills of his big­gest foot­ball mis­sion yet. – The In­de­pen­dent

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.