Liverpool vs Man Utd: Knives out for Daniel Sturridge
Critics unite against Reds striker after unconvincing performance against Jose Mourinho's men
Liverpool were left with plenty to think about after Manchester United effectively shut them down at Anfield on Monday night - and the biggest loser could be Daniel Sturridge.
Jurgen Klopp's bold team selection, with Sturridge playing up front, was counteracted by Jose Mourinho, who picked Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young and set his team up to defend.
Liverpool were denied space and United held on for a goalless draw.
"There has been talk of Mourinho becoming a tactical dinosaur, but he is a long way from that," says Tony Cascarino in The Times.
"Fellaini and Ander Herrera blocked off the middle while Paul Pogba was also on hand to drop back from his number ten position to help if necessary. Klopp was forced into a more defensive approach than he would have liked because Marcus Rashford and Ashley Young’s positioning for United out wide in attack meant James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne stayed back."
From a Liverpool perspective, the most disappointing performance came from Sturridge, who has not scored a league goal for 615 minutes and was hauled off after an hour to be replaced by Adam Lallana. Even more notable than Sturridge's lack of impact was the sudden change in Liverpool's play after he departed, with Lallana sparking the team into life.
Cascarino was "surprised" to see Sturridge in the starting line up as it did not appear to be a game suited to his style of play, he says.
The selection was purely down to Adam Lallana's lack of fitness, David Prentice of the Liverpool Echo says.
"The feeling grows by the match that when Klopp has a fully-fit squad to choose from, Sturridge is not a starter," adds the journalist - thoughts echoed by Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports, notes the Daily Telegraph.
Another TV pundit, Martin Keown, agrees and "is unconvinced that Sturridge has a future as a striker in Jurgen Klopp's side after the 27-year-old seldom stretched the United defence at Anfield", says the Daily Mail.
"Liverpool were an awful lot better when they brought Adam Lallana on and pushed Roberto Firmino further forward. Things started to happen," Keown said on Match of the Day.
Klopp's system, which has served Liverpool so well this season, revolves around versatile forwards. "While Firmino, [Sadio] Mane, [Philippe] Coutinho and Lallana all switch positions with mesmerising - and difficult to track - speed, Sturridge is an out and out striker. That makes him an imperfect fit for Klopp's fluid system, and his only goals this season have come as a substitute - against Burton," notes Prentice in the Echo.
"It was notable that Liverpool's biggest threat of a goal – on a night of precious few – came after Lallana had been introduced." Sturridge's shelf-life at Liverpool is expiring, he adds.