Liverpool put in a commanding display against Manchester United at Anfield on Thursday, with goals from Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino giving the Reds a 2-0 aggregate lead in their Europa League Round of 16 tie.
The combination of Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea and some questionable finishing from Liverpool restricted the home side to a 2-0 scoreline in what was a truly dominant performance from Jürgen Klopp’s side.
The Reds had lost each of their previous four games against Louis van Gaal’s men — including their most recent fixture at Anfield — going into Thursday’s Europa League tie. However, there were no signs of the trend continuing, with the hosts putting in a superb, high-energy performance in front of a raucous Anfield crowd.
Following the game, Klopp hailed his side’s ‘perfect result’, but insisted they would have to put in a similar performance at Old Trafford to progress to the quarter-finals. “It was good, from the first second to last second, with only a few minutes in the second half when we lost control,” Klopp is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
“2-0 is a perfect result. We would have liked to have won by more clearly, but there is nothing to criticise tonight.”
The quality of the performance prompted some journalists to question whether it was Liverpool’s best performance under his stewardship, but the German manager was reluctant to make that assertion. He did, however, have a few words of praise for the Reds’ supporters, who he claimed made it easy for him to enjoy the game.
“As a human being, I could really celebrate and say it is the best and greatest ever but I don’t want to set a limit for them, I don’t know how strong they can be. We are in a good position now and want to go to the next round but for this, we have to play like this again.
“It [atmosphere] was unbelievable. I want to say thank you to everyone who was involved. It was easy to enjoy from the first to last second. That was Liverpool as I knew it before I came here. It was really great.”
Liverpool have one leg in the Europa League quarter-finals
David de Gea’s best efforts could not prevent Liverpool from scoring a deserved second goal, and Firmino’s strike could well have killed the tie. Klopp’s men seem to be gathering momentum at just the right time of the season, with the win against United their third straight success in all competitions.
The Reds now have a full week to prepare for the return leg at Old Trafford, and history suggests they will go through to the Europa League quarter-finals. Liverpool have completed the job after a first-leg home win by 2 or more goals, 9 out of 10 times in European competitions (stat courtesy of @MisterChiping), with the only failure coming over 50 years ago against Inter Milan.
Liverpool went through in 9 out of 10 european ties after winning 1st leg at Anfield by 2 goals or more. Only failed in 1965 vs Inter.
— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) March 10, 2016
The Merseysiders trail fourth-placed Manchester City by six points in the Premier League, and have a challenging fixture schedule ahead of them in the remaining months. As such, winning the Europa League could be their best option for qualifying for next season’s Champions League. If Klopp’s side can repeat their first leg performance against Manchester United in the following rounds, then they will have every chance of going all the way.