Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp pointed the finger of blame at each other after their teams’ much-anticipated showdown ended in a forgettable 0-0 draw.
Having averaged 3.2 goals per game prior to Saturday’s game, United changed tack for the trip to Anfield, producing an extremely cautious display that moved Klopp to assert the visitors had played for a point.
United’s approach was in stark contrast to that of Manchester City, who routed Stoke City 7-2 to go two points clear of their title rivals at the Premier League summit, but Mourinho said Klopp had been jointly responsible.
“I was waiting for Jurgen to change,” the United manager told reporters.
“I was waiting for him to go more attacking, but he kept the three strong midfielders all the time where he was having control because I only had (Ander) Herrera and (Nemanja) Matic.
“When I brought on (Jesse) Lingard and (Marcus) Rashford, I was waiting for him to give me more space to counter, but he didn’t give me that.”
Seeking to ward off accusations his team had played with undue conservatism, Mourinho suggested Klopp should have been more proactive and paid him a backhanded compliment by praising Liverpool’s defensive organisation.
“I know that probably you think we were defensive and they were offensive,” he said.
“Well, you were at home and you don’t move anything? I don’t know. I was waiting for that. He didn’t.
“I think he did well, honestly. He didn’t let the game break. They were very good from the defensive point of view.”
In a post-match television interview, Klopp said Mourinho’s defensive tactics would not be tolerated from a Liverpool manager.
“I’m sure we could not do this at Liverpool. That’s how it is. But obviously at Manchester it’s OK,” he said. “I don’t judge this.”
The result kept Liverpool seven points below United and left them nine points behind leaders City.
– ‘Write whatever you want’ –
While Klopp defended his team’s display, his comments indicated he does not consider his side to be on United’s level.
“For me today, one team who can become champions this year was in our stadium and is not a world apart from us,” the German told his post-match press conference.
“It’s not that we are playing different planets and they are really good and we do not find the entrance to the stadium.”
Liverpool spurned two big chances, firstly in the first half when David de Gea saved sharply from Joel Matip and Mohamed Salah put the rebound wide and then in the second when Joe Gomez crossed for Emre Can to volley over.
Klopp felt Philippe Coutinho should have been given a penalty for a trip by Ander Herrera on the hour.
He also claimed Romelu Lukaku could have seen red for catching Dejan Lovren’s face with his boot during a first-half tangle, although replays suggested the contact was accidental.
Liverpool have now won just once in eight matches in all competitions and Klopp complained their poor recent run was prejudicing the media’s perception of their performance against United.
“Maybe we didn’t create enough chances, but the problem is that everything you ask is always underlined with negatives,” he said.
“That is how it is with our situation. If we had won the last five games…
“Today we created enough chances to win the game. We should have had a penalty, maybe a red card, but we didn’t. You can write whatever you want.”
He added: “If you watched the game and have an idea about football, you can’t expect that we create many chances against Manchester United. It is simply not possible. Barcelona are the best. They would not do it.
“The season is not over. The main thing you have to do during a season is to develop and to perform. That is what we do. So far we didn’t get enough for it.”
Liverpool, United Kingdom | AFP