Last night’s Liverpool-Manchester United Derby ended in a rare 0-0 draw last night—the first since September 2005—as Jose Mourinho set up his side to frustrate Liverpool’s potent attack. The strategy worked, and the draw ended up feeling like more of a loss to a Liverpool side who went in as rare favorites in the Derby.
Klopp knows this side needs to learn to win without its best XI, and that was evident last night as the make-shift midfield of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, and Philippe Coutinho struggled to control the middle of the park as effectively as the trio of Henderson, Adam Lallana, and Georginio Wijnaldum.
After an hour of play, Lallana was brought off the bench to slide into midfield, with Coutinho moving up to the front three. The effect was nearly instantaneous, and if there was going to be a winner in the last half hour, it was far more likely to be Liverpool from that point forward. In fact, it was so obvious that the English media even took notice, taking time away from their usual rumor mongering to ask about his impact in the second half.
“He’s a good player, so it was no surprise,” Jürgen Klopp explained in his typical matter-of-fact way. “But he trained for two days - maybe he could’ve started, I don’t know, he was really close.
“Thank you to the medical department, the fitness coaches, because they did a great job. After two days training, he could’ve played, but no-one knows for how long. When he came in he was really sharp, greedy, after 12 or 13 days, to feel the ball again.”
I think many Liverpool fans would be interested to see what the outcome would have been if Lallana had played all 90 minutes. Still, it’s early days yet, and he’s clearly going to have an important role going forward, so he wasn’t worth risking for one game (even if that game is Manchester United at Anfield). Hopefully the medical staff can also get Wijnaldum up and running for an important stretch of games against mid-to-lower table teams, where the Reds will be looking to pick up maximum points to cement their spot at the top end of the table.