As rivals in Manchester and Merseyside collide, so do their ideas of how to win
Wayne Rooney's disgust was obvious. After 74 minutes of frustration against Leicester City, caretaker manager David Unsworth decided that Everton would have more chance of getting back into the game without their veteran attacker on the pitch. England's top goalscorer of all time appeared to say something before accepting his fate and trudging back to the dug-out.
Was Unsworth making a public play for the job on a permanent basis, proving to the live television audience that he had the courage to make the big calls? Was Rooney's disappointment at least partly fuelled by a quiet voice inside telling him that Unsworth might have a point? It's all speculation. But what was clear, on that Sunday evening in late October, was that Rooney's much vaunted return to Merseyside was looking increasingly like a mistake for both parties.
Rooney was hooked against Watford the following week and his replacement, Dominic Calvert-Lewin brought Everton back into a game they would eventually win. For the Blues' next two league games, he was an unused substitute. And then Sam Allardyce arrived.
With Allardyce in the stands and Unsworth in the dugout for one last game against West Ham at the end of November, Rooney was restored to the team in a central midfield position, his weary legs covered by the effervescence of Tom Davies and Idrissa Gueye. He scored a hat trick, his treble completed with an outrageous effort hit first time from inside his own half.
For Allardyce's first official game in charge, Rooney remained in the centre of the pitch. It has been the story of his season so far, from that bright hopeful first day in August, that Rooney's best contributions have been in unexpected areas. He hit the headlines that day with a perfectly executed headed winning goal against Stoke, but he won the supporters over with his tigerish efforts in the middle against former Manchester United teammate Darren Fletcher.
As Everton's season collapsed, Rooney was often responsible for the creation of their few chances, or at least moments that should been chances. He lacks mobility, he can't do the things he used to do, he can get easily frustrated, but he can open a defence with one deft pass, one sudden shift of balance, the split-second identification of a gap that could be exploited.
You can see Rooney's future in both of Everton's goals against Huddersfield last weekend. He makes the second with two touches, one to bring it under control when Gueye presses and wins the ball in Everton's half, one to thread a perfect ball into Calvert-Lewin. But in the first goal, Rooney is deep, withdrawn from the action. He starts the move with a neatly wedged pass, but there are five Everton players in front of him by the time it goes in. The notion that Rooney's future lies up front, or in the hole, or on the flanks seems to have been discredited. He's a ferocious quarter-back now.
You get the sense that Allardyce is delighted with the immediate improvement in his fortunes. Was he behind the decision to pull Rooney back in from the cold and play him in the centre against West Ham? If he was, it has paid dividends. Allardyce, for all that people diminish his achievements, has a good record with relighting the fire in veteran footballers, as well as those who have been considered difficult. At Bolton, he worked with Ivan Campo, Fernando Hierro, Youri Djorkaeff and Jay-Jay Okocha, as well as Nicolas Anelka, who was considered damaged goods when he turned up at Bolton in 2006. After two years of Allardyce's tender love and care, he'd earned himself a move to Chelsea.
Allardyce has already spoken of his wish to bring a psychologist into Goodison Park, but for the moment he's doing the job himself, behind the scenes and in public. He certainly couldn't have been more positive about Rooney.
"He produced a good performance Saturday and a brilliant one on Wednesday," he said. "So we have to really make sure we get him ready for every game from a physical point of view because he is catching up in years. If we get the physical side of Wayne right, that ability never ever leaves you."
Neither Rooney nor Allardyce will make the trip to Cyprus for this week's meaningless Europa League tie, an unorthodox decision from the manager, but one that makes a certain amount of sense given the prospect of a trip to Anfield on Sunday. Allardyce, knowing that a win over Liverpool is worth more than a win against anyone, is playing his cards accordingly.
It remains to be seen if he can continue to coax these performances out of Rooney, and whether or not he himself has the ability and the drive to repair Everton after he "retired" in the summer to spend more time with his family. But by every reasonable metric, this has been a very positive start for both men.
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.
The fiercer the derbies, the more the participants can appear opposites. It sometimes suits them or, at their least, their supporters, to differentiate themselves from rivals and to present themselves as antidotes to their enemies. On this particular derby day, however, there is a truth to it. The leading men are opposites. On Merseyside, Jurgen Klopp is no Sam Allardyce. In Manchester, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have long represented contrasting approaches to management.
A common denominator between Klopp and Allardyce is the cultivation of a managerial persona. They become the face of the club in a way some counterparts don't. If the German seems to have a practised zaniness, the Englishman displays a boastful confidence. On the field, however, Allardyce is seen as the damage-limitation specialist who stops things getting worse, Klopp the transformative figure who can take a team to the next level. If each is associated with defending, it is in a different way: Allardyce concentrates on clean sheets, whereas Klopp is seen as the cavalier figure whose adventurous tactics deprive his side of solidity and who spends most of his funds on more progressive players.
Klopp's Liverpool may excel in open play, when they are at their fastest and most fluent. Allardyce's sides tend to be set-piece specialists in both boxes, whereas Liverpool have an unfortunate habit of conceding from dead-ball situations under the German. Klopp's style of play is more ambitious and more attacking. Each has showed his thinking with his choice of wingers: in his Bolton days, Allardyce often used Kevin Davies on the right flank, allowing his side to aim diagonal balls at a target man; at Liverpool, Klopp's top scorers, first Sadio Mane and then Mohamed Salah, have been nominal wingers, prolific sprinters who actually operate infield. Many an Allardyce defensive midfielder has been a converted centre-back, one of a battalion of six-footers he often fields. Klopp has preferred to use box-to-box midfielders, whether Jordan Henderson or Emre Can, in the deeper role. His full-backs double up as wingers; some of Allardyce's have been centre-backs.
If both can be tactically flexible, each has shown a preference for 4-3-3 in his time in England. But Allardyce's formation has tended to be a structured defensive unit with a physical striker. Klopp's is more unconventional, far narrower, with a false nine instead of a sizeable centre-forward, and an inverted front three. Perhaps Allardyce is the more influential: he provided a tactical blueprint for smaller clubs looking to survive whereas no one has quite copied Klopp.
Their CVs show pronounced differences, too: the sort to irritate Allardyce, given his infamous assertion that he was better suited to managing Real Madrid or Inter Milan. Klopp was parachuted into Liverpool for his first Premier League job; Everton is the biggest club post Allardyce, who has long maintained English managers are not afforded the same opportunities, has had. But it is also his 11th managerial position to Klopp's three; he has no major trophies to his counterpart's two Bundesliga titles and Champions League final appearance. Big Sam is the journeyman of the pair, Klopp a man whose thrill-a-minute style of play makes the route entertaining.
Allardyce has become one of Mourinho's managerial friends. They belong in the bracket of pragmatists whereas the purist Guardiola is an admirer of Klopp. The managers of the Manchester clubs represent the two competing approaches in recent football. Guardiola is proactive, Mourinho reactive. The Catalan plays a possession-based game, the Portuguese uses a counter-attacking blueprint. Indeed, Guardiola, with high pressing, tiki-taka and perpetual passing, spearheaded a tactical revolution after Mourinho's brand of football became dominant in the first decade of the century.
Guardiola was the ideologue whereas it felt Mourinho's philosophy was winning even if, with two Champions Leagues apiece and 21 and 25 trophies respectively, they have similar amounts of silverware. Yet the differences between were starkest when former allies represented Barcelona and Real Madrid and were epitomised by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Guardiola's work is concentrated on the training ground. Some of Mourinho's is done in the press. "In this room, Mourinho is the f***ing chief, the f***ing boss," Guardiola said in a famous 2011 outburst. On the pitch, Guardiola has tended to be the superior.
The definitive Guardiola display against Mourinho was a 5-0 win for Barcelona over Real in 2010, a masterclass of attacking football. The definitive Mourinho display against Guardiola was a 1-0 defeat, but a 3-2 aggregate victory, when Inter Milan's 10 men had 24 percent of possession at the Nou Camp in a 2010 Champions League semifinal and still progressed. It was a masterclass of defensive football.
Each has a positional game, Guardiola looking for passing angles on the ball, Mourinho for tactical discipline off it. If the quintessential Guardiola player -- Messi apart -- is a passing midfielder, Mourinho's sides have been built around defensive midfielders; sometimes, after that 5-0 thrashing, he fielded three against his counterpart's Barcelona. Like his friend Allardyce, he will field the taller team on derby day. He will look to exploit an advantage at set pieces. They may look to stifle, subdue and then snatch victory. Klopp and Guardiola are likely to look to out-play, rather than just out-thinking and out-defending, opponents. As local rivals collide, so do ideas of how to win.
Richard Jolly covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @RichJolly.