MANCHESTER, ENGLAND (AP) – Jurgen Klopp had a question of his own when addressing journalists after Liverpool’s 7-0 rout of Manchester United on Sunday.
Resisting the temptation to bask in a record win, he remained level-headed and cast his mind back to Liverpool’s previous goalfest in the early weeks of the season.
“Does anybody know when we won against Bournemouth 9-0 how the next result was?” he asked.
The answer was a 2-1 win over Newcastle. That victory came on August 31. Liverpool didn’t win again in the Premier League until October 16. Liverpool’s problem this season has been an inability to produce winning runs.
United’s issues have been the opposite. While Sunday’s result equalled the biggest defeat in the club’s history, it was not the first time United manager Erik ten Hag has been humiliated in his early reign at Old Trafford.
The 4-0 loss to Brentford in the second game of the season sparked debate about whether the Dutchman would keep his job. Then there was the 6-3 loss to Manchester City in October.
Yet United went into the game on the back of winning the League Cup. Ten Hag will hope for another rousing response from his players to ensure a season still full of promise does not unravel.
There have been signs in recent weeks that Liverpool is coming into form to salvage a desperately frustrating season.
Champions League qualification is in sight, with Liverpool three points behind fourth-place Tottenham with a game in hand.
The Merseyside club appears to have momentum and boosted by key players returning from injury.
Liverpool’s new look attack produced its most ruthless display against United as Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah scored two goals each.
Klopp’s success in recent years has been built on his trio of Mane, Firmino and Salah. It has taken time for him to reconstruct his forward line and Sunday provided a glimpse of the future.
TEN HAG’S TOOLS
After the loss to Brentford, Ten Hag ordered his players to come in the next day and run about 13.5 kilometres during a heatwave.
It was the difference between the distance run by both teams in that match and Ten Hag joined in as a show of unity. After losing to City, he called out his players and left Ronaldo on the bench.
On both occasions, Ten Hag got the desired effect. United beat Liverpool and Arsenal and lost only one game in 12 in the league.
He described the Liverpool loss as unprofessional. Whether that is enough to get a reaction from his players will become clear in the coming weeks.
WORK IN PROGRESS
The latest humbling was a reminder that Ten Hag is still in the process of building this United team and his squad remains short in key areas.
Gakpo – a player Ten Hag had targetted in January – came back to haunt him, while loan signing Wout Weghorst was ineffective.
The game also underlined how much United misses the assuredness and creativity of Christian Eriksen, who is out with injury.