Jurgen Klopp: Liverpool boss says Manchester United ‘play long balls’

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said Manchester United resorted to long-ball football during Sunday’s 1-1 draw.

United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s header cancelled out James Milner’s penalty at Old Trafford, leaving Liverpool without a win in four games.

Klopp said: “They played long balls in a wild game. We played the better football and had the better plan.”

United counterpart Jose Mourinho said: “We attacked and Liverpool were the team that defended.”

Mourinho, criticised for negative tactics in a goalless draw at Anfield earlier in the season, said he wanted to “see if the critics are fair” after Sunday’s draw, after which he said Liverpool were “happy with a point”.

“They were clever,” added Mourinho. “They took their time, they know how to play football and control the emotions of the game.

“They knew they would be in trouble in the final few minutes.”

Klopp played down suggestions the draw was key in the title race, with his side now third, seven points behind Chelsea.

Liverpool were without Sadio Mane – who scored for Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations – and defender Joel Matip, who was not given international clearance after turning down the chance to play for Cameroon in the tournament.

Klopp added: “When you see the line-ups and our circumstances, we had lots of little issues, you say ‘a point at Old Trafford – let’s take it and go home.’ Of course it now doesn’t feel like that because of the performance of my boys.”

The German believes Liverpool were “dominating” until the 75th minute and, though his side only had 45% of possession, they did better the shot count with 13 to United’s nine.

The Reds ran 12km further than their hosts but are now on their longest winless run of the season in all competitions.

“In the end period of the game when United started playing long balls – to Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – after 80 minutes high intense football it is really hard,” added Klopp.

“Usually you can accept a draw at Manchester United but I think after the entire 98 minutes we could have deserved a win.”

United played 53 long balls in the game – classified by Opta as “a forward pass that is 35 yards or more and is kicked into a space or area on the pitch rather than a precise pass aimed at a particular team-mate” – while Liverpool themselves hit 34.

The game total of 87 was only eight behind the most played in a Premier League game this season – during West Brom’s win at Crystal Palace in August.

Mourinho said the number of men defending Liverpool’s area prompted his decision to introduce the physical Marouane Fellaini for full-back Matteo Darmian on 76 minutes.

The Belgian headed against the post in the build-up to Ibrahimovic’s equaliser, although the switch to a more direct style triggered by his arrival resulted in just five United touches in the Liverpool area.

Mourinho said: “I have a problem with my neck because I was always looking to the left in the second half and I saw so many yellow shirts in front of me I thought ‘let’s go for it’.

“We lost two points when we wanted all three.

“The people need to know what Marouane Fellaini is great at and what he is not so good at. Marouane is very good in some aspects.

United, now unbeaten in the league since October, remain sixth, two points adrift of local rivals Manchester City and 12 behind leaders Chelsea.

The managers had a disagreement on the touchline late on, with fourth official Craig Pawson coming between them after an incident involving Roberto Firmino and Ander Herrera.

Liverpool forward Firmino was booked for shoving United midfielder Herrera in response to having his shirt pulled.

Mourinho said Klopp had wrongly thought he was asking for Firmino to be sent off, adding: “There was no problem at all.”

Klopp added: “He wanted the minimum of a yellow card.”

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