The German rivalry between Jurgen Klopp and Louis van Gaal took new heights when the flavor of the Liverpool vs Manchester United fixture at Anfield was added to it on Sunday.
Van Gaal has not lost to Liverpool in his 3 previous clashes and went into the game hoping to get a result to keep his job safe and rule out an embarrassing end to his Old Trafford career.
However, Jurgen Klopp who played the Dutchman and got him eventually sacked in Germany not so long ago could not do justice to his record as a spirited and in-form Wayne Rooney stole the show from the Kop.
Liverpool went into the game without Benteke and maybe it is time to stop calling Firmino a false 9 in this Liverpool squad as he lead the line for the home side. Lucas Leiva the Brazilian mid-fielder was given a start in the mid-field in a sole purpose of negating United’s ariel threat Marouane Fellaini in front of his back four.
And right from the start it was a battle that was going to be intense. It did not take long for both players to get in each other’s face doing justice to the context of the game. But apart from a bright spell early on where Martial tried almost sizzled past Clyne United were on the back foot.
Skipper Jordan Henderson tried his best to get his inner Stevie G out for the big occasion as he was almost every where on the field making superb runs into the final third, finding space and creating chances.
But none of those mattered till the ball dint end up in the back of the net. The visitors had their spells in the middle when they tried to counter hoping to catch the Liverpool on the break but never really troubled Mignolet.
The spark in the attack for both teams was visible on the night which was summed up by Adam Lallana’s poor header one on one with De Gea at the edge of the penalty box after Lucas set him off with a superb long ball.
But both teams went into half time with not much to talk about as the score line stayed where it started 45 minutes ago. Neither team made tactical changes going into the second half as Liverpool once agains threatened to score but failed to.
They were made to pay and once again their defense from set-pieces was under scanner when a corner kick was won by the hustling Fellaini from in-between four converging Liverpool players. The ball did not end up in the net but Wayne Rooney was there to thump it home when it came out off the cross bar.
That was the first shot on target for the visitors and a match winning shot it was to give United a very important 3 points in this see-saw season.
The moment of magic needed to win games like this was not what won the game but none the less Louis van Gaal kept his record intact as United saw off the late threats if any from substitutes Benteke and Ibe.
Liverpool were once again beaten and beaten twice in a season and beaten twice in consecutive season. It is going to be bitter to swallow United scoring 4 goals from 4 shots on target this season for the Liverpool fans and they will need a big turnaround in fortunes to qualify for the Champions League this season.
Van Gaal on the other hand will be ecstatic with a victory over their rivals and rejoice living another day at the office. However, he has a lot of work to do before genuinely thinking about a title challenge. A top four spot is there for the taking however, if they are constantly able to fight out results like these.
For all the chances that fell to Firmino, Lallana and Henderson who should have finished off United, Liverpool now find themselves with just 31 points after 22 games, 8 points away from a top 4 spot.
Though it is not out of reach, it looks a distinct possibility and with no Premier League victory this month, Klopp is under pressure to deliver in the Cup competitions.
They will play Exeter in the FA Cup replay in the mid-week while United will find themselves hosting the Saints who are in good form in their next outing.