Of spilt milk and Klopp complacency

WE thought he would pull some stunt, some sleight of foot or at least reprise a neglected item from his textbook of skulduggery. But there was barely a whimper: and just a cry over spilt milk in the tunnel and a sour taste at the end.

Forty games and some 400 days separated this and his previous home defeat to his old and current nemesis – telltale brackets for Pep Guardiola's superiority.

Jose Mourinho had played better before kickoff. His mind games were more like his old conniving self: a flurry of judiciously timed barbs to show he'd not lost the knack of getting under opponents' skins and into referees' minds.

And the team he picked possessed two wing-backs and four attackers. Nope, he did not park the bus, but still ended up in reverse gear for most of a game in which United were embarrassingly outplayed.

He claimed a penalty but it was not clear and Ander Herrera's reputation probably preceded him in Michael Oliver's mind. And City had a stronger shout early doors and he didn't mention that.

United were denied by Ederson's incredible double save – but they were the beneficiary of similar from David de Gea last week.

In truth, the manager had little to rage against. At Arsenal, there had been slick breaks, deft one-twos and ruthless finishing. Here, all they could muster was a lone Marcus Rashford strike against a defence that had to be rearranged three times during the match and was makeshift throughout.

You'd have backed Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku to get the better of Kyle Walker, a rusty and patently unfit Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi and Fabian Delph. And you can't say the visitors didn't try to help.

But such was the superiority of City's instinctive passing that United couldn't get the ball. At halftime it was 334 passes to 78 to the Blues.

At Old Trafford! Without coming anywhere near to their best and having left their lasers behind, City were still in a different class to United.

Lukaku was left alone, a forlorn figure, as the other three front men had to do so much tracking back as Herrera and Nemanja Matic struggled to protect the rear. And when Zlatan Ibrahimovic came on, he was a long way from being a Lion in Winter.

It is one thing to quibble about Mourinho not playing the United way – some Devils are prepared to settle for a pragmatic approach until he gets all his players – but the meekness on the field would have been hard to swallow.

This was a Manchester derby after all, a title decider of sorts, and at the Theatre of Dreams, scene of so many gladiatorial contests and storming comebacks. United pressed more in the second half but there was to be no Alamo, City were allowed to run down the clock and could have helped themselves to a couple more.

Even Mourinho acknowledged the title race is "probably" over as only Spurs among the other contenders didn't drop points. And this is not even halfway through his second season, by which time he's normally assembled the right ingredients and found the winning recipe.

Defensive solidity is his default setting but unless he switches to a more positive way of playing, patience could be about to run out among the faithful.

Indeed, there will be those asking whether he, himself, might be losing his touch.

Earlier, just 50 snow-splattered kilometres away, there was even more grumbling about a home manager. Jurgen Klopp's decision to bench Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho seemed like tempting fate beforehand: if it was rotation, it had spun off its axis by the end.

As often happens when the cavalry are belatedly called, it was too late, the opposition heels were already dug in and the late winner remained tantalisingly elusive.

And it was not just the Brazilian duo but Emre Can and Giorginio Wijnaldum, who were rested. It left a side devoid of its best creators to prise open a Sam Allardyce-drilled defence. And choosing Dominic Solanke over Firmino was to choose a donkey over a thoroughbread.

Liverpool should have been home and hosed but for a criminal piece of selfishness by Sadio Mane, but Klopp didn't help by taking off none other than Mo Salah!

You don't need to be an armchair Freud to feel that Klopp's uncharacteristic rage over the penalty was in part anger at his own stupidity. He screwed up.

This is the Premier League, you're facing Allardyce in a Merseyside derby. This column is a big fan of the German manager but for this stumble, he should blame no one but himself.

So much, then, for Super-derby Sunday or whatever they called it.

The appetizer was better than the mains, Southampton and Arsenal providing far more entertainment. Only four countries didn't show the much-hyped evening and, in truth, they didn't miss much.

GOOD: Man City

They were not at their best but setting a new Premier League record of 14 consecutive wins has to be saluted. And in doing so they've all but secured the title a fortnight before Xmas.

BAD: Jurgen Klopp

A disastrous decision before the game and another during it: leaving out Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho was inexplicable and then to compound it by taking off Mo Salah! He was asking for an Everton equaliser and he got it.

STUPID: Dejan Lovren

It was soft and Dominic Calvert-Lewin milked it but you don't push an opposing player in the back in your own penalty area. Add another Lovren misjudgment to a long list this season.

BOB'S latest book, Living the Dream (about British clubs meeting foreign billionaires) is currently on sale at Borders, MPH, Kinokuniya and Popular bookstores.