The Reds were thrashed 4-0 by old foes Manchester United in their first pre-season friendly of the summer at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on Tuesday. Nunez, who arrived from Benfica last month in a stunning club-record transfer deal worth up to £85million, played the final 30 minutes as part of Klopp’s third set of substitutes and made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
With just three minutes to go, the ball fell kindly to Liverpool’s new recruit while United goalkeeper Tom Heaton was scrambling across his goal after Mohamed Salah ‘s long-range effort bounced back off the post. Instead of slotting into an open net, however, the Uruguayan skied his shot and blazed over the bar from nine yards out.
Rivals fans gave Nunez – who has been suffering from foot blisters since joining the camp – plenty of stick for the miss and his horror debut, but his manager put a positive spin on things. “He is a number nine and he can play on the wing as well. We will see where he will play,” Klopp explained post-match.
“But what you could see is the boys were already searching for him. It was his third session (since arriving for pre-season training) and I think after the third sprint his lungs were nearly ready to explode. We nearly killed him with these balls but he offered the runs and the boys wanted to pass the ball, that is for sure one of his strengths. He was dangerous, all these kinds of things.
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“So Darwin, we will see. I think his profile is a proper number nine so that’s helpful with speed and aggression and using his body, all these kinds of things.”
The Reds boss added: “When you lose 4-0… if we talk about the game without the result, we have a lot of good things to talk about from my team. But if we do it like it should be, not forgetting the result, then we have to consider that we lost 4-0. So more things didn’t go too well because we made some mistakes – that’s normal. But we have to pay the price for that and that’s what we did tonight.”
Liverpool will now fly to Singapore to begin the next phase of their globetrotting pre-season tour, with English counterparts Crystal Palace awaiting them on Friday. “It’s tough, it’s tough,” Klopp admitted when discussing his side’s busy schedule which takes them across four countries in two continents.
“But by the way for a lot of teams it is tough in these moments. We were not on tours for a long time, so we do it now and from here to Singapore, I think we fly two-and-a-half hours so that should be fine. Then on Saturday we already go home again, so that’s fine. So far, it’s really OK apart from the result. Everything is, so far, OK.”
The Reds will be hoping for a better outcome when they face United at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Monday, August 20.