Erik ten Hag has dismissed suggestions from Jurgen Klopp that his Manchester United team employed a man-marking system against Liverpool.
United beat Liverpool 4-0 in Bangkok in the first game of pre-season on Tuesday. When speaking to the press after the game, the Man U manager was asked about the Liverpool boss’ claim that The Reds struggled against the tactic.
ten Hag disagreed with Klopp, saying he hadn’t set his side out to play man-for-man.
“I wouldn’t say that we play man marking – at a certain moment we play man marking,” said the Dutchman via manutd.com.
“We want to press, we want to press all day and play proactive football. Sometimes we can do that high but if not possible, we have to read it as a team and drop lower. But we want to press and that has to be the intention all day.”
What did Klopp say
The post-game comments weren’t meant as a slight from Klopp. In fact, he was actually praising the way ten Hag’s system had made life difficult for Liverpool.
“I saw a lot of good performances in moments, but no consistency, sometimes we were in a rush,” said Klopp. “The way United defended in a man-marking system, especially in midfield, we gave the ball away and they finished the moments off, that was obvious.
“The way United is playing with this man-marking idea you need more flexibility. When Harvey [Elliott] came in the middle we were more dangerous.”
United hungrier than Jurgen’s Reds
Man-marking doesn’t always work against a team as fluid as Liverpool. Leeds United under Marcelo Bielsa famously used the system religiously, only to see The Reds beat them a combined 9-0 last season.
United were also beaten by the same aggregate scoreline playing a completely different way. But when you’ve got players keen to impress a new manager, they’re going to stick to the task as doggedly as possible.
Tired legs in the early stages of pre-season potentially meant that Liverpool just couldn’t match their opponents hunger.
ten Hag clearly saw something different to Klopp, although that could of course be a mere tactic to throw other manager’s off the scent.
Either way, maybe this little disagreement may put a spanner in the jovial relationship the two managers look to have. ten Hag and Klopp could be seen laughing heartily with one another before the game on Tuesday.
This is United and Liverpool after all, we can’t be agreeing with each other!