Jurgen Klopp finally lands his Old Trafford win at the seventh time of asking

The Reds boss abandoned his previous cautious stance at the ground to find a win when the team were desperate for it

Melissa Reddy
Senior Football Correspondent
Thursday 13 May 2021 22:54

And on the seventh visit to Old Trafford under Jurgen Klopp, finally a victory for Liverpool. When they needed it most, the squad at their worst following a debilitating injury crisis while navigating an unthinkable series of disasters in A Season to Forget, they won at Manchester United to steer top-four talk their way.

When the Merseysiders were at their most supreme, conquering England, Europe and the world, these opponents at this ground proved kryptonite.

That was largely owed to a risk-averse approach from Klopp, even when United were on their knees - as was the case in February 2019.

On that occasion, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s selection was hampered pre-match and then totally hindered by three-enforced substitutions before half-time.

Liverpool were jostling with Manchester City for the title, the thinest of margins separating them, but did not go for the jugular. They were content with a goalless draw that they would later regret when missing out to Pep Guardiola’s machine by a point.

Now, with United purring - second in the standings, having the Europa League final to look forward to - and Liverpool unconvincingly limping along, they somehow had to produce a winning formula.

And they did, thanks largely to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino. Two players that have been severely derided, left for “goosed,” “sh*t,” and “dead,” moved a distant Champions League dream within touching distance.

England manager Gareth Southgate was in attendance to watch Liverpool’s right-back be the standout player in the match as his counterpart, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, was repeatedly punished for poor decision-making.

In the first half alone, Alexander-Arnold - ridiculously in danger of being left out of the Euros squad - had delivered five key passes, which was as many as United managed in total.

Firmino had registered just one goal in 23 matches across all competitions ahead of kick-off, but scored twice either side of the break in his best performance of the campaign.

Diogo Jota’s goal on 34 minutes had brought Liverpool back into the encounter after a sloppy, slow start that allowed Bruno Fernandes to get off the mark in the opening 10.

Mohamed Salah’s finish on 90 ensured they had won it, after Marcus  Rashford pulled one back and Mason Greenwood’s cameo threatened to take the clash away from the visitors.

United, without Harry Maguire, were a defensive shambles. That point was constantly underscored during commentary, chiefly by Gary Neville who previously termed the opponent’s lack of fit options in the heart of the rearguard as an “excuse.”

Liverpool, with Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams who count as their seventh and eighth-choice centre-backs, saw it home.

At a critical juncture, at an unfavoured ground against the old enemy, Klopp’s men remembered they could fight, and press, and play.

They didn’t crumble at 1-0 down even after having a penalty call chalked off, nor cave at 3-2.

Liverpool are fifth, six points behind Leicester and four adrift of Chelsea with that pair meeting next Tuesday with one or both set to lose ground.

West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace remain for last season’s champions, who must win all three to control whether they will still be at Europe’s top table.

At the end of the harshest of storms, Liverpool are giving themselves a glimpse at a golden sky.

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