Old Trafford hasn’t been Jurgen Klopp’s favourite away ground to visit in his six years as a Premier League manager. Indeed, Liverpool’s 4-2 win over Manchester United in May of last season was the first time the German had escaped ‘The Theatre of Dreams’ with three points in six previous visits.
Despite this, Klopp will likely be the more relaxed of the two managers on the touchline this Sunday such is the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The build-up to this season’s first meeting between the two North West rivals has been dominated by debate over the Norwegian’s future as United manager. Solskjaer is almost certainly feeling the heat.
However, this isn’t to say that Klopp would escape scrutiny if things go against Liverpool on Sunday. The Reds have made a strong start to the 2021/22 season as the Premier League’s only unbeaten side after eight rounds of fixtures, but Klopp and his players need three points to stick with the pace being set at the top of the table.
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Anything less than a win at Old Trafford will see Liverpool cut adrift. Of course, this wouldn’t be fatal at such an early stage of the campaign, but a three or four-point difference on a team as accomplished as Chelsea might be difficult to claw back especially considering Liverpool have already spurned their chance to beat Thomas Tuchel’s side at Anfield this season.
With Virgil van Dijk back and Mohamed Salah reaching new heights in his career, Liverpool might currently boast the strongest team in European football. Some might point to a perceived weakness in the centre of the pitch, but with Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and James Milner, as well as youngsters Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones, to call upon it’s not as if Klopp is short of midfield options.
Liverpool are expected to compete on all fronts this season with the Reds among the favourites to win both the Premier League and Champions League titles. This is the standard the Anfield club has set for itself in the Klopp era. Success on Merseyside is now measured in silverware.
And in big wins in big games. Having already dropped points at home to Chelsea and Manchester City this season, a draw or defeat to Manchester United on Sunday would be viewed as a missed opportunity, especially with Solskjaer’s team in such poor form - the sort of missed opportunity that could cost a team a shot at the title.
It’s possible Klopp could become a victim of his own success. While his first-choice XI is among the strongest in the sport, his squad lacks the depth of some of his Premier League rivals. It could even be argued that Solskjaer has more options across the pitch than Liverpool have at this moment in time (see Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho in attack).
Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Image credit: Getty Images
Last season, the shallowness of Liverpool’s talent pool was exposed by a handful of injuries to key players, yet much of the discussion around Klopp’s side failed to account for this. Instead, many claimed the Reds had reached the end of a cycle under the German coach and that an overhaul was needed.
With so many players at their peak, the pressure is on Klopp to make the most of Liverpool’s best chance since the 1980s to clean up both domestically and on the continent, but the competition at the top of the Premier League means there is very little margin for error. The manager under the most pressure at kick off on Sunday might not be the same as the one feeling the heat by full time.
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