Klopp questioned as “unambitious” Reds waste big chance – Media on Man United 0-0 Liverpool

25 February 2019

The media were critical of Liverpool’s attack and Jurgen Klopp as they assessed their goalless draw at Man United as two points dropped.


The Reds kicked off a huge week in the Premier League title race with a point as the result of a below-par performance at Old Trafford.

The game was there for the taking against a depleted United side, but Liverpool lacked the bravery and quality on the day to claim what would have been a priceless three points.

Looking at things positively, Klopp’s side are back in top spot but pressure is now on to take maximum points against Watford and Everton in the next games.

Before focus turns to what are now two must-win matches, here’s a look at how the media assessed the draw at Old Trafford.

 

Reporters offered contrasting views on whether it was a point gained or two points dropped…

MANCHESTER, ENGLANAXD - Sunday, February 24, 2019: Manchester United's Luke Shaw (L) and Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Writing for Goal, Neil Jones was in no doubt that it was points dropped and feels that only time will show how costly failing to win was to title ambitions:

“Make no mistake, this was an opportunity missed for the league leaders, who were unable to take full advantage on a day when Manchester United were stretched to breaking point in front of their own supporters.

“One point gained, two dropped, given the context of the afternoon. Time will tell how significant this was.”

This is Anfield’s Karl Matchett brutally, but also correctly, assessed that this was a bigger case of two points dropped than the home draw against Leicester:

“Forget the home draw at Leicester, this turned out as far more of two points dropped.”

However, the Mirror’s Alex Milne thought a point apiece was not a bad result for either side:

“Whilst they would have dearly loved to move three points clear in the title race, Liverpool shouldn’t feel too disappointed with a draw.

“Derby matches are notoriously difficult to predict, and to survive the hate-filled atmosphere of Old Trafford with a crowd and team desperate to dent their title bid and avoid defeat will no doubt please Jurgen Klopp.”

The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce went one further, insisting it was a “decent result” for Klopp’s men:

“Forget the doom and gloom merchants, this was a decent result for Liverpool. A point away to Manchester United should never be sniffed at, especially when they are a resurgent force under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 24, 2019: Liverpool's manager J¸rgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

ESPN’s Glenn Price also took a positive outlook, focussing on how being a point clear at the top of the table at this stage is a great position:

“The Premier League title is still in Liverpool’s hands and they do now have an advantage over Manchester City.

“One point ahead of the reigning champions, Liverpool would have taken this at the start of the season.”

And the Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle thought it was the Reds’ worst performance this season but praised the Reds for getting out with draw in what is the toughest remaining fixture:

“But Liverpool have now negotiated their toughest remaining Premier League fixture without defeat, stand a point clear of Manchester City, six ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, and have still only lost one top-flight game with 11 remaining.

“Not a bad reward for their worst performance of the season, those in the away end a bit nearer the truth than the naysayers back home.”

 

There was criticism for Liverpool’s performance, especially in an attacking sense…

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 24, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Price was unimpressed with the lack of creativity from Klopp’s team:

“A walking-wounded United created more clear-cut chances than Liverpool. Liverpool had lots of possession, but did very little with it.”

BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan saw worrying signs with the Reds failing to break down a deep defence and thinks it is something that must improve as other teams will adopt the same tactic:

“Their inability to open up opposition teams when they defend in numbers must be a concern for Klopp, because they are sure to meet more sides who will do the same in the next few weeks.”

Writing for the National, Richard Jolly flagged the lack of incision in attack as now a real concern, and provided an interesting stat on the Reds’ struggle for goals since the turn of the year:

“For Liverpool that lack of incision should be a concern. They have only scored more than one goal twice in 2019.”

Jones thought losing Roberto Firmino was a big reason behind Liverpool’s struggles in the final third:

“Without their connector-in-chief, the visitors’ promising start evaporated swiftly.”

Matchett, among others, singled out Mohamed Salah as the worst performer and made an interesting point on how the Egyptian struggles to raise his game against United:

“He didn’t really offer an outlet at any point and certainly wasn’t a goal threat, with a first-half free-kick woefully off target.

[…]

“In contrast to how the likes of Luis Suarez or Fernando Torres used to raise their performances against the Red Devils and find match-defining contributions, this was a concern and a frustration to watch the No. 11 toil.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 24, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson reacts during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Independent’s Simon Hughes had sympathy for the front line, assessing that Liverpool’s biggest issue is a lack of creativity from midfield:

“The organisation between Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho was there but the eye for a key pass was not and this meant Liverpool struggled to create opportunities.”

Writing for Football365, Steven Chicken believes Liverpool still need a player capable of providing that moment to unlock opponents from midfield:

Philippe Coutinho’s absence has barely been felt over the past 13 months, games like this cry out for a player with his ability to make something out of nothing.

“The Reds did not take the opportunity of the January transfer window to follow up on their abandoned attempt to sign Nabil Fekir from Lyon last summer, either with a renewed bid for the Frenchman or by targeting somebody else. We suspect their biggest priority this summer will be to put that right.”

However, the Telegraph’s James Ducker thought it was just simply a case of defensive players outperforming their attacking opponents and praised the work of both sides in this regard:

“This was very much a day for defenders and destroyers over the two teams’ creative talents. Both defences excelled where both attacks come up short.

[…]

“Liverpool, led by the imperious Virgil van Dijk, were pretty unflappable but United’s back line—which has been a far more undependable entity this season—were quite superb.”

 

There were some questions asked of Klopp over both his selection and in-game management…

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 24, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Price thought the German was too cautious with his starting lineup:

“Klopp appeared to play it safe with his starting lineup. That team did not appear to fit the nature of the game when United’s injury problems hit.”

The Evening Standard‘s David Lynch was particularly unsure of Klopp’s decision to start James Milner at right-back over Trent Alexander-Arnold:

“Unfortunately, the No. 7’s cool head deserted him when he picked up an early booking, and he continued to endure a frustrating afternoon.

“So much of the visitors’ promising play came down the right, but not enough was made of it, with Milner’s crossing one particularly disappointing aspect.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 24, 2019: Liverpool's Andy Robertson applauds the travelling supporter after the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. The game ended in a 0-0 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This is Anfield’s Ben Twelves thought Klopp should have been more proactive and braver with his subs in the second half to go in search for the win:

“Was frustratingly unambitious with his changes in the second half, waiting too long to introduce Shaqiri in particular, and it was reflected in a sluggish performance from his team.

“The game was there for the taking in the second half but Klopp failed to provide the injection needed to push the team forward as the Reds drifted through to a draw.”

Hughes questioned Klopp’s decision to name an untried midfield lineup for the first time in such a big game, and thinks the constant tinkering is proving counter-productive:

“This was the ninth game in a row where he has selected a different combination—and it was one he hasn’t grouped together at all this season.”

 

Certain reporters offered interesting alternative thoughts from the draw…

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 24, 2019: Liverpool supporters during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Mirror’s David McDonnell feels Liverpool lack belief when facing top-six rivals away from home and thinks this poor record in such games is becoming a concern:

“One win in 12 away to the Premier League‘s big six suggests Klopp’s men lack belief when it comes to the big occasion, while star man Mohamed Salah was once again anonymous against United.”

Matchett believes the Reds now must win every game to in order to win the title as Man City won’t slip up, and called for “more proactive and braver” performances:

“Next up it’s Watford at home, then Everton away—and from here until the end of the season, every match has become must-win. It’s still in Liverpool’s hands, yes, but there is no further margin for error.

[…]

“To win each game, though, the performances must be more proactive, braver, more aggressive—better—than this one was.”

Pearce rightly noted that the main thing is that Liverpool’s destiny is in their own hands which should provide plenty of encouragement that this can be the year:

“With 11 games to go, their fate remains firmly in their own hands after emerging with a share of the spoils from the toughest assignment they had remaining.

“That’s cause for excitement rather than angst as Klopp’s side look to end that painful 29-year wait for the top-flight crown.”

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