Pep Guardiola has already shown Manchester United how to exploit Liverpool weakness

Manchester United face the ultimate test in the Premier League tonight (Tuesday). Ralf Rangnick is scheduled to visit Anfield for the first time as a manager, with his United team set to face Liverpool.

The United boss has praised the level of Jurgen Klopp’s outfit in pre-match comments, but now is tasked with coming up with an effective plan to defeat them. It is easier said than done, but Rangnick could take inspiration from a specific Pep Guardiola ploy.

Manchester City faced Liverpool at the Etihad last week, and the Spanish coach adopted a subtle tactic to cause problems for Klopp’s defence. Although the contest ended 2-2, Guardiola’s side were impressive throughout and arguably deserved to win.

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It was the first time Liverpool had conceded more than one goal in a single match since facing Chelsea on January 2nd. A total of 20 matches in all competitions were played without Liverpool conceding more than eleven, which highlights how effective Guardiola’s plan was.

The Spaniard mixed up his typical approach for the bout. After the game, Klopp said: “They were a bit more direct than they usually are.”

City are renowned for building from the back with the ball on the floor, and they tend to favor short passes and a slow tempo in order to retain maximum control over proceedings. However, during the match with Liverpool, Man City played a total of 113 high passes, with those defined as passes that are above shoulder-level at peak height.

Across the whole of the current Premier League season, Guardiola’s side have played more than 113 high passes in a game on just one occasion, against Crystal Palace. They tend to average around 87 per match in England’s top-flight.

“When we defended them well — when Hendo [Jordan Henderson] stepped up or Thiago stepped up — they had to play back passes,” said Klopp. “When we didn’t do that, it was just like a set piece and they chipped the balls behind our line.”

An example of the type of situation referenced is pictured below. Aymeric Laporte assumed possession in his own half but no Liverpool player opted to press him, which allowed him to hit a lofted pass behind Klopp’s defensive line.

Manchester City regularly attempted to play longer passes in behind Liverpool’s defensive line

“Without pressure on the ball, you cannot have a high line,” said Klopp. Rangnick could instruct his players to behave in a similar manner against Liverpool.

Whenever his central defenders have time on the ball, they could look to play lofted passes over Liverpool’s defense as Man City did. In Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Elanga in particular, United have enough speed behind to shine a light on the weakness.

Rangnick’s defenders will have to remain composed at times in order to evade Liverpool’s press but once doing so, the potential reward of an accurate ball over the top could prove to be invaluable.

Just this once, City could help United.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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