Last season there was a lot of social media chatter about Sadio Mané being past his best, being washed.
This season, though, Mané has been in-form again, and has often been utilized through the center of the pitch. In his pre-Manchester United press conference, manager Jürgen Klopp addressed the winger’s recent surge in form, which has seen him score four in four appearances.
I have known Sadio for nearly six years [and] as far as I’ve known him he never needed any competition to try to be the best version of himself. He played, for a long time, pretty much all the games for us when he was fit and performed on an incredibly high level consistently. That’s it,
Bringing in Luis [Díaz], I am not sure that affected that part of his game, I don’t know. That was not the reason for bringing in Luis and playing in the centre obviously suits Sadio very well, as well. So he played for us, scored incredible goals and some important goals from the left wing, but he can play the centre as well and we saw that again [on Saturday].
But Sadio as well had some physical struggles since he came back [from international duty]. That’s completely normal. He could not — Sadio doesn’t feel it but we could see it — use his immense physicality just like this [immediately] week in and week out, or every three days. That was the problem.
I really felt before the game already against City, ‘OK, that looks like Sadio physically’ and that’s why he could play the game he played. Very important. He was super difficult to defend and very helpful and incredibly important in our defending because the goal he scored, the first one, you only can score if you try to get there and he did it. And you only do this run if you feel fresh enough to do it, these kind of things. This all works together pretty much.
No, I don’t think that Luis is the reason that Sadio scored four goals, but somehow maybe [he helps] as well because Luis obviously can keep a last line pretty busy and that opens up always gaps for other players.
For Klopp then, it’s not competition that helps bring out the best in the front line, but perhaps something more like shared responsibility among elite footballers.