04 December 2018
The weekend’s games had been hyped up primarily because of Sky’s ability to manipulate the fixtures to produce Derby Day. Sunday rolled out three matches whose impact on the title would most likely be playing second fiddle to bragging rights at pubs and on social media.
It’s perhaps no surprise then that despite the frenzied North London derby at the Emirates, the big debating point of the weekend centred around Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and his over-enthusiastic celebration of the Reds’ bizarre 96th-minute winner against Everton. His charge across the field, akin to an end of season promotion celebration, has been met in some quarters as another example of his passionate approach to the game, while others have launched into the German for disrespect and demonstrating the sort of behaviour that most would not get away with.
The Merseyside derby hadn’t been a classic. At times, Everton looked to be the side most likely to claim the spoils, and certainly Liverpool looked well short of the talents needed if they wish to topple Champions Manchester City. When Jordan Pickford intervened with a calamitous howler when misjudging Virgil Van Dijk’s wildly wayward effort, Divock Origi pounced and Klopp set off on his sprint on the Anfield turf.
It should be noted that Klopp himself apologised just a few minutes later at the final whistle, and the dignified manner of Everton boss Marco Silva in accepting that there was no disrespect intended nor taken earns him considerable merit. Klopp acknowledged that there may well be a verdict to come from the FA and seems to accept whatever that may be.
Perhaps the most hotly-debated element of the incident is the identity of the perpetrator on this occasion.
BBC’s Danny Mills was scathing in his criticism of Klopp’s actions; “It’s absolutely shocking what Jurgen Klopp does…you cannot go on to the middle of the pitch, no matter what the circumstances.” Whether one agrees or not with Mills’ assessment, key to his comment is the fact that he identifies Klopp as “media friendly, everybody seems to love him and he can’t do anything wrong.”
Now Mills’ comments can be taken with a little pinch of salt as he was never the best behaved of footballers. But in this instance, it is clear what he is talking about. Love him or loathe him, one Mr Mourinho is effectively the antithesis of how we see Klopp. How would the media be reacting to the same behaviour from the under-fire United boss?
Mourinho himself had another shocker of a weekend. After bemoaning in his own pre-match press conference that United can no longer persuade players at clubs like Tottenham to come to Old Trafford, nor indeed prize open the purse strings to finance any such move, he then promptly took his side to a Southampton team that scores goals about as often as Donald Trump apologises for his Twitter comments. Within 20 minutes his side found themselves 0-2 down and after fighting back for a draw Mourinho’s side find themselves 16 points off the lead, three points further away than they are from the relegation zone.
Earlier in the week, the last-gasp victory over Young Boys in the Champions League saw Mourinho assault a rack of innocent water bottles in delight. Not the most outrageous display of emotion, but in a season where the Portuguese has rarely cracked a smile, nor indeed had much to smile about, his response was still enough to force the FA to say that there would be no action for his celebration.
Would Klopp’s one-man pitch invasion be accepted as simply emotion if it was Jose? It’s hard to believe it. Certainly the press and media would be going after him more vociferously, perhaps suggesting that this is how poor United had become that such a last gasp winner would be celebrated in such a fashion. Klopp of course knows that dropping points in such games as this simply cannot happen if they wish to sustain a title challenge.
The wider implications are of course that Klopp’s behaviour is not tolerated from others. A player goes into the crowd, it’s punished. Shirt off? Yellow card time. And if an Anfield season-ticket holder had mirrored Klopp’s actions, their afternoon would have ended in the company of the authorities and doubtless the joy of watching the remainder of Liverpool’s challenge from their own sofa.
Huddersfield’s David Wagner, close friend of Klopp, collected a ban in the Championship for a similar celebration against Leeds during their successful promotion campaign. Regardless of whether it’s simply a display of emotion, or a potentially intimidatory breach of the rules, it will certainly be interesting to see if the FA treat the smiles of the German in the same way his compatriot, or indeed as they would his Portuguese foe from Old Trafford – and don’t be surprised if Jose has something to say on the matter.