Jurgen Klopp’s Team Selection at Old Trafford Was Justified

After a stalemate at Old Trafford against Manchester United, questions were raised about Jurgen Klopp’s team selection for the game. He started the game with a midfield three of Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho. He even started James Milner ahead of right-back Trent Alexander Arnold. After experiencing the most boring 90 minutes of Liverpool’s play this season, many questions were raised about Klopp and his lack of risk-taking. The fans argued that the midfield should have had Naby Keita instead of Henderson on Sunday to add to the creativity of the Liverpool side but, in reality, Klopp was spot on with the players he had chosen to start with.

Jurgen Klopp Was Justified in His Team Selection Against Manchester United

Leaving Out Keita

Of course, Keita would have added much more to Liverpool’s creativity in the midfield than captain Henderson, but the Guinean is not disciplined in keeping his position without the ball. Henderson was deployed by Klopp with the sole intention of staying with Paul Pogba and not giving him any space, and the captain played this role perfectly. He man-marked the Frenchman, restricting him any space to run with the ball.

Keita would not have been able to man-mark Paul Pogba as well as Henderson did it on Sunday. A non-creative midfield like this meant that Liverpool’s front three had to deliver their attacking masterclass to score goals at Old Trafford.

However, in an injury prone first half, Liverpool lost Roberto Firmino through an ankle problem which forced Klopp to bring on Daniel Sturridge. This was not good news for the Liverpool attack as it was overly dependent on the front three playing together. Firmino’s injury was an unlucky blow for Klopp, who could only hope for Sturridge to do the remaining job, but the attacker did not have much impact in the game. He was slow in pressing and even slowed down Liverpool’s press. While Sadio Mane looked lively from the right, Mohamed Salah was quiet from the left. Liverpool’s attack was disrupted by the unfortunate injury to Firmino.

Milner Ahead of Alexander-Arnold

Arguing about Milner’s selection ahead of Alexander-Arnold, it was sensible to play the midfielder instead of the young full-back at Old Trafford. Last season, Marcus Rashford had been a nightmare for Alexander-Arnold at right-back. Milner’s selection meant that Klopp wanted to stabilize Liverpool’s defence. Playing Alexander-Arnold would have been a risk of conceding on counterattacks because of the advance positions he takes high up the field. This would have given Rashford a lot of space to exploit on the right side of the pitch and with the form Rashford was in, Milner’s selection made sense, even though he disappointed later with a below-par game.

All these conservative measures taken by Klopp ahead of the game at Old Trafford frustrated the Liverpool fans, who wanted some spark in their game on Sunday. The fans wanted Klopp to take more risks in a game of such big calibre, but in order to become champions, the manager needs to show more of his skills in maturity rather than risk-taking. Klopp behaved maturely by playing that team on Sunday. He respected the opponent 100%. Liverpool are in that stage in the league where risk-taking is not necessary. A draw did what they wanted in taking them to the top of the league. Risking losing at Old Trafford would have been a bad result in terms of players’ confidence and the atmosphere around the club.

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