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Saturday 16 December 2017

Jose's in the driving seat for massive clash at Anfield

(l-r) Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will renew rivalries tomorrow.
(l-r) Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will renew rivalries tomorrow.

Spare a thought for Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp who watched key men take a hammering during the international break - but the greater damage was done to Liverpool.

Mourinho can cope without Marouane Fellaini at Anfield tomorrow because he now has a big squad, full of talent, but Klopp cannot easily replace Sadio Mane who was injured while playing for Senegal.

This a huge game and another test of a club's title credentials, like Manchester City's collision with Chelsea before the break, and I reckon Mourinho is the man feeling more confident about how it will pan out.

Since Liverpool beat United 2-0 in the Europa League in March 2016, the teams have drawn three times but Manchester United have built up some decent momentum since the start of the season while Klopp continues to struggle with his defence.

Analysis

Tomorrow is a great game to look forward to as an analysis of how the team are doing so far, as we saw a few weeks ago, when Manchester United played Chelsea. Liverpool have not made the start to the season that United have, and Klopp is now very unlucky to have one of his main players out, with Mane gone for six weeks.

This is a big examination of Klopp and what he has done. They have more questions on the defensive side than their attacking game, they have scored goals but it's the goals they give away that's the worry, you can't win things with the goals that Liverpool conceded.

Chelsea last year, Manchester United at their peak, they win a lot of games 1-0, so even though you don't score a lot of goals you can still win games.

Defensive issues have cost Liverpool dearly and we need to see tomorrow if Klopp has done anything about that.

I was quite surprised to see Kenny Dalglish's comments yesterday when he expressed satisfaction at the idea that Liverpool have a manager who is happy to win 3-2 rather than 1-0.

Kenny knows how well Liverpool did by winning a lot of games 1-0 and I have to say, it doesn't help Klopp or the club one bit for him to be talking in this way.

I know Dalglish works for Liverpool and he is hardly likely to have a right go at Klopp but he would be better served saying nothing than denying what most people would see as just common sense.

Kenny's teams gave very little away and that's the best way to go about it. Now, Liverpool have conceded too many goals, the manager places too much of an emphasis on attack and not enough on defence.

You need to have an equal measure and that's not been the case, unless there has been a miracle in the last week, hard to see how Liverpool will fix their defensive mistakes.

I know that Mourinho will have his defence well-primed for this game and would be more than happy to take a 1-0. I'll bet Klopp would take your hand off if you offered him the same result.

Mourinho is a man of whom a league title is expected this season, Klopp not so much but he is still a manager who has targets to meet and blows to take.

One man who has done his job, for now at least, is Gareth Southgate, as England are through to the World Cup finals and can watch next month's play-offs as semi-interested spectators.

But after the excitement of the final blows of the World Cup qualifying groups, I'm left scratching my head by England again.

Gareth Southgate seems to think that PR is as big a part of management as actually coaching players.

England qualified for Russia quite comfortably and the achievement was met by a chorus of moaning about why Southgate's team seems to lack passion.

This has roots in many disastrous appearances by England in tournament finals and the premise it is based on is that other nations seem to care about playing for the shirt more.

This, the smart people at Lancaster Gate believe, is reflected in the empty seats at Wembley for World Cup qualifiers. They think English fans have no connection with the national team.

I don't believe that for a second. I don't believe that Harry Kane lines up in an England shirt feeling 'brittle' as the English FA chief Martin Glenn believes.

Southgate took his players on a military training course and last week, he brought Alan Shearer in to give the squad his thoughts on pressure and penalty shoot-outs. According to Shearer, the reason England haven't done well at finals is down to that.

I'm sorry but that's total nonsense. The place to look first before trotting out excuses is the way the team has been managed. Nobody will tell me that Roy Hodgson did a good job with England.

Nobody can begin to suggest that Sven Goran Eriksson was anything but a manager by committee and if you take a line back through the people who have managed England over the years, I don't see an over-abundance of success. Graham Taylor? Glenn Hoddle?

Fabio Capello had the best record at club level of any England manager and they hounded him out of the job. I laugh when I read that English international players cannot handle the pressure. They are trained from a very young age to embrace pressure and they wouldn't be able to perform as professional footballers if it was a problem.

That's what the whole process of development is about when you identify a good kid. There are thousands of lads all over these islands who had the talent but couldn't deal with the pressure.

The process of playing, training and performing weeds out those who, for one reason or another cannot keep their head and are paralysed by fear of failure.

The players who make it, the ones who get paid every week to play, go through every imaginable test to make sure that they can kick a ball straight when there's thousands of people watching.

If I was one of those England players, I would be offended by the idea that the manager wanted me to be a commando. I would be offended that the boss feels that it is necessary to parade Shearer in front of me to tell me how to cope.

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