Manchester United visits Liverpool Monday in the Premier League’s marquee matchup, and amid what’s proving to be the English top flight’s most competitive campaign, two age-old rivals are buoyed by realistic title ambitions.
While Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, and Chelsea all have legitimate claims as title favourites, Monday’s match at Anfield could go a long way toward cementing a case for both the Reds and the Red Devils.
Here’s a look at which high-profile manager, Jurgen Klopp or Jose Mourinho, is better suited to lead his sides to Premier League glory.
Transfer troubles and shopping successes
United is no stranger to alleviating squad concerns by splashing the cash, and while Liverpool is far from impoverished, Klopp and Co. have proven to be more resourceful in the transfer window by unearthing the likes of Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan.
With two-and-a-half months to play before the January transfer window opens, both Klopp and Mourinho will be looking to address squad shortcomings with an influx of buys, which begs the question, who has performed better in terms of acquiring talent?
After taking over for Brendan Rodgers last October, former Borussia Dortmund boss Klopp has had two transfer windows to work with. The results have been stellar.
This summer, Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum, Loris Karius, Matip, and Klavan have made the Anfield switch for a total expenditure of £72 million. All five players have walked into the first team and proven to be influential.
In terms of Klopp’s tenure with the Bundesliga giant, there’s no questioning the German’s value as a shrewd talent evaluator. During his seven years with the club, Klopp was at the helm for the budget signings of Matthias Ginter, Shinji Kagawa, Nuri Sahin, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus, Ivan Perisic, Ilkay Gundogan, Lukasz Piszczek, and Robert Lewandowski for a total of £81.17 million. That is nothing less than obscene.
Conversely, Mourinho has had just the one window after being named Louis van Gaal’s successor in May, and the Portuguese gaffer wasn’t afraid to make changes. Paul Pogba’s world-record £89.3-million signing was the preeminent move, while the signings of Mkhitaryan (£30M), Eric Bailly (£30M), and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (free) have transformed the club almost immediately.
While it remains to be seen how the quartet of summer signings benefit the club, Mourinho’s past record is littered with blemishes, especially during his tenure at Chelsea.
Deemed not good enough for the Blues, Mourinho shipped out Kevin De Bruyne, Juan Cuadrado, Mohamed Salah, and Filipe Luis. De Bruyne has since made Wolfsburg a hefty profit and become one of the Premier League’s best players at City; Luis has been La Liga’s best full-back this season; Salah and Cuadrado are two of Serie A’s best wingers.
Advantage: Klopp, and it’s not even close.
Squad selection stumpers
With Wayne Rooney mired in the most dire stretch of a decorated career, the England international’s spot in United starting XI has become the most contentious issue of Mourinho’s short spell with the club. Three Lions gaffer Gareth Southgate dropped Rooney sans conflict, so why can’t Mourinho?
“If somebody confused him, it was not me,” Mourinho said about turmoil over Rooney’s best position. “He can play everywhere – that’s no problem.”
Mourinho’s been insistent on playing Rooney as a forward, but the ginger-topped Everton product sees things differently, identifying a deeper role as his preference.
“I feel I can control and dictate games from there,” Rooney said of his preferred spot.
The confusion over Rooney’s place in the squad isn’t the only problem Mourinho faces in squad selection. The Marouane Fellaini and Pogba two-man midfield was a nightmare, and the inclusion of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, and the afroed Belgian in the starting XI against Liverpool is a head-scratcher. Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan could walk into the side; instead, the talented trio was omitted from the team sheet.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Klopp. Employing a 4-3-3, Liverpool has thrived using Klopp’s preferred Gegenpressing, and it has made stars of Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana. James Milner appears a player rejuvenated at left-back, and Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are playing the best football of their respective careers in Klopp’s system.
Advantage: Klopp, and once more, the disparity is stunning.
The gaffer who galvanizes
Ask Bastian Schweinsteiger how he rates Mourinho as a motivator and prepare for a response rife with objection. Pose the same query to Schneiderlin, Darmian, Depay, and Michael Carrick and prepare for answers similar to that of the celebrated World Cup winner.
Better yet, ask a 21-year-old Luke Shaw how Mourinho makes him feel after the England international’s reintegration to first-team football after a horrendous leg break was maligned by the gaffer.
Chelsea’s collapse last season can be chalked up to more than Eden Hazard’s drop in form and Branislav Ivanovic’s abduction by aliens. With reports suggesting that Mourinho had lost the dressing room, that very dynamic played out each week on the touchline with virtually the same side that ran away with the Premier League title a year earlier.
Then there’s the ebullient German Klopp, who in a year at Anfield has seemingly found the perfect balance. At least that’s what Henderson reckons.
“I still think he gives players praise when needed or when he feels he wants to. Individuals are different. He knows everyone, how they react and how to get the best from them,” Henderson offered.
“I think that’s a good quality the manager has got. It’s not about the things that you did well, it’s about the things you didn’t do so well and what you need to improve on for the next game.”
In other words, Klopp is constructive in criticism without breaking his players’ spirit, while Mourinho is quick to shift blame to the medics, ball boys, and young players, among others.
When asked about comparisons between he and Mourinho, Klopp said, “I am ‘The Normal One.’ I am a normal guy from the Black Forest. I was a very average player. I don’t compare myself with these genius managers from the past.”
You’re right, Jurgen, measuring yourself against Mourinho is not a fair comparison.
Advantage: Klopp, again.