P’s Anfield project
something similar to Liverpool’s most persuasive title challenge of the Premier League era, winning a deathly, bruising game on the break.
Mourinho is likely to produce another well-laid, physically robust game of counterattack. Anfield has both haunted and inspired him since 2005 and the Champions League defeat to a scrambled Luis García goal that Mourinho still disputes. He has lost one Premier League game there since, winning three and drawing two, and always arriving a little more sandpapery, a little more combative.
Tomorrow United will have Phil Jones back and Romelu Lukaku up front despite an ankle niggle. Marouane Fellaini might have played if fit but Nemanja Matic plus Ander Herrera is still an energetic midfield. Mané’s absence will probably see Coutinho move into Liverpool’s front three and Emre Can come into midfield. Klopp will hope Can’s exhilarating long-range net-buster for Germany this week is an omen of something similarly penetrative. Nobody even resembling a centre-forward has scored a league goal for Liverpool since the 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal in August.
United, for their part, have conceded just six goals in 14 matches going back to the middle of May, two of those to Real Madrid, one at home to Burton in the EFL Cup. Defences may or may not win titles but they do often close out the tightest of games. At a similar break in the season last year Antonio Conte spent a few days brooding in Italy and recalibrated his own defence so dramatically Chelsea set off on an unstoppable spree. Klopp will have been desperate to get his full squad back after the break and wreak something similar. With Tottenham away to follow next week, this already looks like an unusually urgent meeting of city neighbours, of styles and personalities, of press high and defend deep.
‘I may be the oldest manager there is,’ said Alec Stock, as he led Fulham to the 1975 FA Cup final at 58
The number of times the two managers have met, with Klopp winning three games and Mourinho having the upper hand in one. Three games have been drawn Major trophies won by Mourinho in his 17-year managerial career, including two at United last season. Klopp has picked up three in 16 years