As the heatmap illustrates, Liverpool's two full backs covered more ground than AWB, Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams combined. To some degree it is understandable as United were playing away from home against Liverpool at the cauldron that is Anfield but it is a pattern which is all too familiar to fans of the Red Devils. Whereas Klopp is incredibly forward thinking and utilises full-backs as quasi-wingers Solskjaer doesn't trust his to bomb forward and handle their defensive responsibilities, nor has he overseen any demonstrable technical improvement in the attacking side of their games.
It has been a particular irk of ours that whilst Liverpool's defence and attack take all the plaudits, their midfield remains incredibly underrated. The subject of our focus today is Gini Wijnaldum who is surely on the verge of 'world-class' status, both for his exploits for his national side during the Nations League and his much ignored technical ability. Whilst Henderson has elevated his admittedly limited game to 'Deschamp-esque' levels, Wijnaldum's base is higher in terms of his ability to manipulate the ball in tight spaces and beating the press.
He had half the touches that Fred but do not underestimate his role as the conduit between Mane and Robertson, drifting out to the left and making it nigh on impossible for United to mount any resistance down that flank. Fred is someone of a similar style to Wijnaldum in that he too is able to carry under pressure and keep the game moving forward thus inviting the other team to nick the ball yet looking to exploit the spaces in behind. He linked up wonderfully with Martial and one wonders how he would be perceived if in the sky blue of City or even under the tutelage of Klopp..
Considering Liverpool were the home side, it was bemusing to see that Klopp's men hit almost twice as many long passes as Manchester United. City too utilised the long ball well against the Reds during their recent cup win away from home. Why? It is perhaps down to the perceived fragility of Victor Lindelof in dealing with aerial situations and also the notion that if you can pin Ole's men in their own half, you're likely to win it back very quickly due to their lack of consistency in playing out from the back.
For Liverpool it also ensures that teams are left second guessing how the Red's are going to beat them and is a key factor behind their unbeaten run. They are a very versatile team going forwards and able to beat all manner of set ups and win 'Ugly'... it also means when suffering fatigue, they can go for the less taxing 'punt' and give themselves breathing space but also catch the opposition out who are trying to 'out-press' Liverpool. In Europe too it explains why Liverpool are a bigger threat than the more predictable approach of Pep's Manchester City who only know one way to play.
Despite being overwhelmed in the first half and VAR being their best player, United battled well in the second half and through Fred and Martial took the game to Liverpool. The Red's were fortunate to not throw the game away but having held firm they showed just why they are Champions-Elect with a stunning breakaway goal towards the end. With the title all but sewn up, Klopp must have his sights also set on retaining the European Cup... he has the best team in the World at his disposal, to just focus on the league would be doing his side a disservice - they can and should win it all. As for United, whilst there were positive signs in the second half, the gulf in class in general was concerning... Top 4 seems to be getting away from them.