Jurgen Klopp must finally turn focus to FA Cup to rejuvenate Liverpool as Manchester United lie in wait

The opportunity arrives in the shape of a different competition, one that has previously been disregarded – and proven rightly so – to focus on transforming the club into title winners and European royalty again.

Those were in normal times, where the boycott of the replay at Shrewsbury last year, the selection against Exeter and West Ham in 2016, Plymouth the following season, twice against Wolves and even in beating Everton in 2019/20 were justified by the bigger picture at play.

Right now, Liverpool cannot be guaranteed a goal let alone glory if they concentrate on just the two top-tier prizes.

And so having never embraced the FA Cup under Klopp – failing to progress beyond the fourth round in four of their five seasons during his tenure – the Merseysiders will have to wrap their arms tightly around Sunday’s chance to spark a rejuvenation.

Liverpool’s horrendous form is enough of a reason to see the match as a tonic, but beyond that, the unpredictable nature of the title race in a campaign filtered by the effects of Covid has elevated the status of the FA Cup.

As a representative from one of the super agencies termed it, it can be a “break glass for the big clubs”.

During conversations about contract renegotiations and summer business with recruitment executives, he gleaned that a greater emphasis will be placed on the domestic cups because “there are several clubs who believe they have the chance to win the league, but they are honest in talks and admit there’s no certainty.

“They will all go for it, for sure, but I keep hearing ‘Champions League spot and a cup’ as a more realistic target and it makes sense because there is a lot of twists still to come especially with the rate of injuries we’re seeing.”

Liverpool have already endured a depth of setbacks in that regard, while Manchester City and Leicester are now without their most influential players in Kevin De Bruyne and Jamie Vardy.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson react to their defeat

(Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

United are in exceptional form, especially on the road in the league where they are unbeaten in over a year, but even club legends do not expect them to sustain their status at the summit.

There is still too much football to be played and so much has already happened to have any credence in the destination of the title.

City were discounted not so long ago, Chelsea were considered favourites in early December and now look flattered by their eighth place, Liverpool had been all but crowned champions again following their 7-0 scorching of Crystal Palace and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in crisis after crisis but his side are setting the pace…

And so while the FA Cup cannot match the prestige nor the financial incentives of winning the league or Europe’s premier competition, it offers a wider chance for success in a minefield of a season.

Klopp has hinted he will field a strong XI at Old Trafford. “We want to win the game, it’s clear,” he said.

“We want to go through and for that we have to play really well because United is obviously in a good moment and they get all the results they wanted so far. That’s why we have to be ready, 100 per cent.”

United have also won their past seven FA Cup home fixtures without conceding a goal, which is not the most welcome news for a team battling to click in the final third.

Victory for Liverpool, though, can help shift the clouds, and reset a team that have been a shade of themselves for a month.

It will also grant only their third passage to the quarter-finals since winning the tournament in 2006. That stat might not have mattered much in the recent past, but it gains significance in Liverpool’s current funk and in the strangest of seasons.

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