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Why Man United delay could actually be a positive for Liverpool – and 1 player in particular

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The postponement of Liverpool’s trip to Man United has been seen as a disruption to the fixture list, but the delay could actually benefit Jurgen Klopp and his squad.

Such is the difficulty posed by the abandonment of Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford, it has taken days for a new date to be decided for Man United vs. Liverpool.

Talks have been ongoing between both clubs, the Premier League and the Greater Manchester Police, with even an alternative venue considered following protests from United supporters.

With under three weeks left of the top-flight campaign, neither Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Jurgen Klopp will have welcomed the postponement.

But as the dust settles and Liverpool get back to work at Kirkby, Klopp may well view the enforced break as a positive.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 24, 2021: Liverpool players line-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Between the 1-1 draw with Newcastle on April 24 and this Saturday’s visit of Southampton, there will have been 13 effectively ‘free’ days.

Some of those will have been spent in recovery, some fulfilling media obligations and some in preparation for the trip to Manchester, but by and large they will have been spent at the training ground.

It is, in fact, the longest period the Liverpool squad has been able to work together, almost uninterrupted, throughout the entire campaign.

There were three international breaks, of which March saw the fewest departures, but there have always been absentees during these spells without games.

Even the 12 days between the meetings with Southampton and Man United in January, which many felt Klopp could have utilised as an informal winter break, saw the FA Cup third-round clash with Aston Villa wedged in between.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 4, 2020: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match between Liverpool FC and Shrewsbury Town at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

That Klopp chose to field many of his senior players against Villa’s academy side that night was seen by some as an error, in a campaign where rest has been at a premium.

A whole two months later, the manager looked ahead to a 17-day gap between clashes with Wolves and Arsenal, relishing the opportunity to “reset” on the back of a 1-0 loss to Fulham.

“A few players will go to internationals, a few will not go. So we will use that time to train and then we can change it, because we have to change it,” he told LFCTV.

“I don’t know if that’s what we need, but we need something.

“Being together and being on the training ground and working on the things always helped us, and will help us this time.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 10, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp embraces James Milner after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Since returning from the March international break, which saw only 12 first-team players called up, Liverpool have lost just once in six games – the 3-1 defeat at Real Madrid.

Granted, they have not been at their free-flowing best, but that loss to Fulham back in March is the last time the Reds suffered defeat in the Premier League, ending a 14-game run that saw them lose eight and win only three since the 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace.

It gave Fabinho the time to find his fitness and readjust to the No. 6 role as Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips established a partnership at centre-back – and this time the break could benefit Phillips in particular.

Phillips was a surprise inclusion in the starting lineup revealed before the United game was called off, having missed the previous two fixtures with a hamstring injury.

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 28, 2021: Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The assumption was that he had been rushed back, having not been pictured in training in the buildup, with Fabinho required in midfield and neither Rhys Williams or Ben Davies trusted in a tie of this calibre.

It may have been a gamble from Klopp, but now Phillips has been afforded more time on the training field to rebuild his sharpness and prepare for a return to action.

Similarly, the overused likes of Gini Wijnaldum, Andy Robertson, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will be given a prolonged rest for the first time this season, which could help revitalise their form.

These are silver linings to a frustrating situation for Liverpool, who now face a more congested run-in as they harbour hopes of a top-four finish.

But they should be embraced at Kirkby, with the delay in facing United potentially turning into a genuine positive.

And if all else fails, at least it extends the run of days without defeat – now almost one month!

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