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PARK THE BUS

Liverpool’s latest demolition job proves Jose Mourinho’s strengths and limitations

The Man United bus would have felt vindicated but also jealous of what he was seeing

The power of hindsight is a magical thing in football.

Cast your minds back to last October.

Man United had just produced a fairly stale display in a 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield, preserving a point mainly in part to David De Gea’s heroics.


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Klopp and Mourinho clashed for the first time this season at Anfield

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Klopp and Mourinho clashed for the first time this season at Anfield

De Gea pulled off a miraculous save from Matip

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De Gea pulled off a miraculous save from Matip

Choruses to the tune of ‘Park the bus, park the bus Man United!’ reverberated around the ground as Mo Salah and co. failed to break down United’s resolute rearguard.

Jose Mourinho was blasted in the press for his approach, accused of ‘anti-football’ and a performance completely atypical of a side pursuing the Premier League title.

Try to wipe that undeniably smug look off his face now.

Smarmy

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Smarmy

Mourinho will have watched Liverpool dismantle Roma on Tuesday night, presumably from one of those Dr Evil swivel chairs in his living room, content with his work.

Because since that 0-0 at Anfield the Special One’s somewhat negative setup has been more than justified.

Liverpool are a force to be reckoned with, recording just the one home defeat all season in all competitions.

Firmino and Salah are unstoppable at times

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Firmino and Salah are unstoppable at times

At Anfield, they have demolished any opponent who has attempted to play them at their own open game.

The Reds sent out a warning sign with an early 4-0 battering of Arsenal back in August.

They’ve also comprehensively outclassed runaway champions Man City twice in 2018 alone, not to mention Roma this week.

Mo Salah scored Liverpool's first goal from close range

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City were swatted aside in the Champions League

Arsenal, City and Roma all made the cardinal sin of trying to go toe to toe with the Anfielders which ultimately played into the hands of their formidable front three.

Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane scored 13 goals between them in those four fixtures as the devilish trio thrived against a high and ambitious defensive line.

United, in stark contrast, were camped in their final third for the majority of the contest with almost a back six at times.

Klopp was left frustrated

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Klopp was left frustrated

Rashford spent more time going backwards than forwards

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Rashford spent more time going backwards than forwards

It wasn’t pretty but Mourinho – the master of the dark arts – recognised the size of the task he faced, accepted the circumstances and came away with a precious point.

He then replicated that approach as United survived a second half onslaught to beat Liverpool 2-1 last month.

Rashford scored twice against Liverpool in March

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Rashford scored twice against Liverpool in March

It might be the only way to stop Liverpool in full flow – so why haven’t others adopted similar tactics?

The few teams the Reds have struggled to break down at home – United, West Brom and Burnley – all play incredibly narrow at the back and put bodies on the line.

Roma did the exact opposite, playing just three defenders against Liverpool’s fearsome attack and adopted a ridiculously high line.

It was asking for trouble and got the expected treatment.

A man as entitled as Mourinho will take pride in knowing he was one of the select few to stop Liverpool in their tracks.

But at the same time Roma’s mauling served as a timely reminder of Mourinho’s limitations.

Because in a way Liverpool’s brilliance both vindicated and undermined Mourinho.

A Mourinho team has never been that expansive

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A Mourinho team has never been that expansive

That kind of scoreline is now a regular feature under Jurgen Klopp, with Liverpool scoring at least three goals a whopping 23 times in all competitions this season.

The Reds have also smashed at least five past every single opponent in the Champions League.

Contrast that with Mourinho, who hasn’t tasted a 5-0 scoreline in any match since January 2015.

Envious? Probably not

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Envious? Probably not

As a pragmatist the Special One almost certainly won’t feel envious, taking satisfaction from defensive excellence as much as attacking prowess.

But United fans may be the ones tinged with a sense of jealousy after again watching their arch rivals put on a show.


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