Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has not forgotten the way that Jose Mourinho’s gamesmanship helped his Chelsea team shatter their title hopes two years ago, and indicated that he wants to avenge that when the manager brings his Manchester United team on Monday night.
Henderson watched the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea in April 2014 from the stands, as he was suspended, and said that it was “difficult to watch” the way the opposition deliberately slowed down the game, with Mourinho refusing to return a ball for a throw-in on one occasion. The ball was in play for only 11 minute and 11 seconds of the first 20 miutes, preventing Liverpool from launching one of the blistering openings which took them close to the title that season. Steven Gerrard’s slip then delivered Chelsea the critical breakthrough.
“I will never forget,” Henderson said of the game. “Just the way that they came and played - very clever from Jose there, at the time. We were on fire really and the way they played the game, very slow, sat in.
“I didn’t play the game, I was watching from afar. It was difficult to watch. They made it very difficult – throw ins, goal kicks, they were taking forever and that got everyone worked up in the stadium and it worked to their advantage in the end because they got the result they came for and the one that had a big impact on us winning the league, so I will never really forget that, so.. [Monday’s game] will be a big occasion, if we can keep performing the way we are and win, to sort of put that to bed.”
Mourinho, who has lost only three of his ten visits to Anfield and not lost on Anfield soil since the 2007 Champions League semi-final, defended a way of playing described after the game by then manager Brendan Rodgers as “parking two buses” but Luis Suarez, playing for Liverpool that day later claimed that even a Chelsea player expressed concern about the tactic, telling him: “What do you want me to do? If he makes us play like this, I have to play like this. What else can I do? If I don’t, I won’t play.”
Henderson added that the strategy showed Mourinho’s tactical acumen. “It was tactically, very good from Jose. He is a great tactician, he is a world-class manager and he has shown that in the clubs he has been at.”
Mourinho said that United would play ambitiously at Anfield. “We have a certain style of play and we are not going to change that,” he declared. But he has most to lose tonight. Defeat would leave United six points behind Liverpool and compound the sense of Jurgen Klopp as the coming man in the Premier League and Mourinho as somewhat diminished.
Klopp insisted that any such characterisation was “bullshit” and “rubbish.”
He asked: “Who says this? He has started badly at United? They won their first (three) games. So now you are giving B grades for winning? I try to play similar football to now with my former team and when we faced Real Madrid it was unbelievably difficult to play them.
“He (Mourinho) knows how successful football works. To like or not like the way he plays, why should he care? Why should he care?”
The German is the one with injury problems heading into tonight’s game. A groin strain has made Adam Lallana a doubt, along with Georginio Wijnaldum, who sustained a hip injury playing for Holland last week. Luke Shaw is expected to be back from injury for United.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Karius; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner; Can, Henderson, Lucas; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw; Herrera, Pogba; Rashford, Mata, Lingard; IbrahimovicReuse content