Friday 21 October 2016

Anfield rising high on Klopp factor

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates after getting through to the League Cup final: Reuters
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates after getting through to the League Cup final: Reuters

It will come as a vigorous rubbing of salt in the wounds of Manchester United die-hards that Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have somehow muddled their way through to the League Cup final.

To add insult to injury, Manchester City, the noisy neighbours have joined them there.

The one consolation in a most peculiar season for Red Devil devotees was the continuing decline of Liverpool while Brendan Rodgers was in the seat and even after the German pied-piper turned up, form was anything but consistent.

It also helped that, for all Louis van Gaal's troubles, United remained ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League and put a big hole in Klopp's newly generated momentum when they poached a 1-0 at Old Trafford a few weeks back.

But no matter how match both Cups have been belittled and bothered in the last decade, it still counts for something if you can lift a trophy and both Liverpool and Manchester City have a chance of doing that now.

City's semi-final, second-leg win over Everton last night was bad news for one side of Merseyside and another side of Manchester but good news for Martin O'Neill with James McCarthy back on the pitch for a half-hour and Seamus Coleman on for a late cameo.

No good tidings for van Gaal. It's hard to see any silver lining in a relentless grey cloudscape hovering over the Dutchman.

Read through the remarkable variety of predictions and reports from 'sources' available at the moment and you can have van Gaal going nowhere, van Gaal on a match-to-match tightrope, van Gaal will not be sacked by Ed Woodward and van Gaal is ready to resign at any second.

Contrast that with Klopp and a parade of mostly good news, capped now by a Wembley day out for the Kop and with his smiling face shining out of every back page.

Poor van Gaal fits the description David Feherty had for Colin Montgomery which involved a bulldog and some nettles (google it). His face gets longer and more mournful by the day.

All the while, Klopp continues to win admirers for his irrepressible good humour and unwillingness to buy into the narrative the English media have set for him.

A good example of this was the ridiculous 'soft German' outburst by Sam Allardyce which tried to paint Klopp as a figure to be ridiculed and was lined up by tabloids as a classic Premier League feud in the making.

He didn't bite. He laughed it off just as he has laughed off everything which might have a vague whiff of controversy attached.

In the absence of anything sensational to write about, hacks have focused on whimsies like his lost glasses and Klopp only too delighted to play along.

Inevitably, this will change and the only question about that is when. As long as he entertains the masses by simply being himself, he will get the breathing space his team so desperately needs.

But at some point in the future, sooner or later, the time will come when Klopp the failure is deemed a better story than Klopp the clown.

It is hard to shake the feeling that we will wait some time for that change. Klopp radiates confidence and competence and his players clearly love him.

How van Gaal must envy the German's ability to bring his players with him and indeed, the job of management Klopp has done to get Liverpool to Wembley within four months of his arrival at Anfield.

He inherited a poor enough squad and the best player in it has been behaving like Bambi on Ice. Daniel Sturridge seems to have football's equivalent of writer's block and Klopp can't get him on the pitch.

Sturridge will have to find a new club soon if he doesn't get with the Klopp programme.

The German wasn't joking when he said he looked like a serial killer wearing his new glasses and we've all seen how high his blood rises in the thick of a tight game.

It isn't too hard to imagine him throwing the modern day equivalent of a shoe - maybe an ipad - at Sturridge in the dressing room if he thought it might shake him out of whatever, strange restriction he is feeling.

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