Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer
 (Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

(Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

The last time Liverpool visited Old Trafford prior to Jurgen Klopp assuming the hot-seat, it was certainly a memorable occasion for Reds fans – though not wholly for positive reasons.

In fact, there was largely just a single bright spot: Christian Benteke’s display of athletic improbability, firing a bicycle kick in past David de Gea to offer three minutes of hope that an undeserved point could be snatched. The newly signed Anthony Martial soon put paid to that notion, as Roberto Firmino toiled away for an hour on the wing and Brendan Rodgers wound down the final days of his reign on the touchline.

For all the success and steps forward achieved by the Reds since that day in the autumn of 2015, their trips to Manchester United haven’t generally improved an awful lot.

Much of that can be put down to Jurgen Klopp’s apparent risk-averse approach when it comes to away days down the East Lancs, but given what’s at stake this time around for the Reds – a final and unexpected shot at the top four – it’s time to reconsider the familiar approach.

After all, it hasn’t yet yielded big results.

A draw in the Europa League later in the same season Klopp took over was certainly cause for celebration, as it yielded an aggregate victory over United and passage to the quarter-finals, but considering the Reds swept pretty much all before them for two years en route to winning the Premier League, Champions League and Club World Cup, it remains an aberration of Klopp’s tenure that he has yet to manage a single win from six trips to Old Trafford.

Four draws is the sum reward of Liverpool’s efforts from those half-dozen visits. Six goals have been scored, with one a penalty and another an own goal. Mohamed Salah also struck twice in the FA Cup, earlier this season, in defeat.

What the lack of victories and comparative lack of goals displays most clearly is quite simple: when it comes to visiting Liverpool’s biggest rivals, Klopp has often played it overly cautious.

The 0-0 in 2019 when the Reds were chasing the title – ultimately falling a point short of Man City – was one of only two games from the final 13 that they didn’t win. The other was at Goodison Park, where the same pattern of low risk, low reward football from an otherwise swashbuckling side was on show.

Continuing the nine-game win streak they ended that season with, Liverpool then started 19/20 with an incredible 26 wins from 27 games. The odd one out? Old Trafford, once more.

That time it took a late Adam Lallana equaliser to keep the unbeaten run going, but only because the performance had been largely passive beforehand.

In neither campaign were United a well-oiled machine or a fully functioning unit, then being more concerned with their own rebuild than with winning the biggest games to make the most critical difference at the top. They would have been largely pleased with each draw with the Reds at the time, while for supporters of an Anfield persuasion, each non-victory was cause for frustration.

This time it’s the other way around, with United’s top-four status secured and Liverpool desperate for points.

It doesn’t make for an ideal scenario: if they gamble more by taking the initiative, more spaces could be left for United to exploit and counter-attacking suits their style.

But Liverpool have no choice. They have a lot more riding on the game due to their own errors throughout the season. Injuries and absences can account for not being in the title race, but not for conceding late equalisers in successive games, dropping four points in the space of a few days at the business end of the campaign.

Liverpool’s former boss won at Man United on Tuesday; the current boss must follow suit on ThursdayPOOL/AFP via Getty ImagesLiverpool’s former boss won at Man United on Tuesday; the current boss must follow suit on ThursdayPOOL/AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool’s former boss won at Man United on Tuesday; the current boss must follow suit on ThursdayPOOL/AFP via Getty Images

Those errors – and others before, particularly at Anfield – have put the team in this position, and the manager cannot afford to play it safe as a result…not if he wants the team to be among Europe’s elite instead of in the Continental backwaters next term, at any rate.

Leicester’s win at Old Trafford against a much-rotated United side on Tuesday night puts the Foxes on 66 points with two games to play: Chelsea and Tottenham. Both are tough fixtures, and with an FA Cup final to focus on too it’s certainly plausible that they might win one and lose one.

But with only four of their own left, the Reds can now reach a maximum of 69 – so absolutely no margin for error, and even then requiring a helping hand elsewhere and a small swing in goal difference.

In searching for his first win at the ground, Klopp has no option but to abandon the must-not-lose mentality which the Reds have carried into Old Trafford under him, and take a far more proactive stance in the search for three points – and even if they achieve a first victory on rival territory since Rodgers was in charge, it could still be Liverpool’s former manager who ends up with the biggest smile at the end of the season.

Read More

Chelsea vs Arsenal predicted line-ups: Team news ahead of Premier League fixture tonight

Chelsea vs Arsenal prediction: How will Premier League fixture play out tonight?

Is Chelsea vs Arsenal on TV tonight? Kick-off time, channel and how to watch Premier League fixture