James Milner tried to stop Erling Haaland straight from kick-off during Liverpool’s win over Manchester City on Sunday.
The veteran midfielder was part of the back-line which shut out the prolific City man. And in footage from Liverpool’s Inside Anfield series on YouTube, Milner could be seen employing some interesting tactics against the Norwegian.
As Mohamed Salah takes the Liverpool kick-off to start the second-half, Milner stands on the centre circle. His eyes on Haaland as he runs from his own half, the 36-year-old sidesteps to ensure their paths will meet.
Milner then braces himself for impact as the City man inevitably runs straight into him. With the ball heading in the direction Haaland’s run was aiming for, Liverpool’s makeshift right-back clearly felt the extra protection was needed.
Judging from the position Milner was in at the kick-off relative to where he was playing, this looks planned. Always searching for those fine margins, it could only be Milner.
Milner puts it all on the line at Anfield
This is just a little insight into the nous that Milner brings to this Liverpool team. Yes, he’s not the athlete he once was, but, my word, he still puts it all on the line for the team.
To some, that’s a stick to beat him with. A sign of a perceived lack of quality. But in reality, Milner’s physicality and old-school ways are just another string to his bow.
Still, to most Liverpool fans, this was unlikely to be enough against Haaland and, more directly, Phil Foden.
Foden has been a scourge of Liverpool in recent times. Prior to Sunday’s game, the England man had scored three goals in his last four games against the Reds.
With the greatest of respect towards Milner, the 22-year-old must have been rubbing his hands together. And, to be fair, he did get some joy. This wasn’t a perfect performance from Milner and he did leave gaps at times.
But he did enough. Liverpool’s No.7 is as dogged and wily as they come, and although you may beat him for pace or trickery, he’ll trump you on guile any day of the week.
That isn’t to say we’re keen to see Milner continue at right-back for the foreseeable future. The sight of Trent Alexander-Arnold coming off the bench late on in the game was encouraging and Ibrahima Konate is also expected to be back soon.
But Milner showed once again why Jurgen Klopp was so keen to keep him around this season. A huge performance which should keep his critics quiet for a little while at least. Vintage James Milner.