Jürgen Klopp today looked ahead to Liverpool’s clash with Manchester United at Anfield and insisted: ‘This is one of the most special games in world football.’
The Reds play host to their near-neighbours on Saturday lunchtime in the first fixture following the conclusion of the international break.
And speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon, Klopp spoke of the significance of the contest, the threat of United, the importance of discipline and what a win would mean for his side.
Read on for a summary of the manager’s most pertinent points regarding the fixture with Jose Mourinho’s team, or watch the media briefing in full in our YouTube clip below.
On his general pre-match thoughts on facing United…
I don’t have personal rivalries with other managers; I don’t see the game like this. It’s a massive game, it’s great. I actually really would love to ask the Premier League for giving us - both teams - more time to prepare for a game like this because our fans are waiting for the game since two weeks at least, if not since we played them last year, and we have exactly two days to prepare, both teams. That’s how it is. It’s a pretty big game so maybe next time so [they] will have a look and bring these teams together when we really can work in the direction of this game. That’s only one thing.
Jose Mourinho’s teams play like they have to play in the different moments and in this moment they are, of course, in a much better situation than they were last year when we played them. But we cannot think too much about it. We know how Manchester United are playing, they have fantastic players involved in the team. We know about the qualities of Lukaku, Rashford, Mkhitaryan, Mata… all of these guys. They’re very experienced. Sometimes they defend pretty deep and sometimes they have a high-pressure formation. Against us, they played very often long pretty early with a target player – last year Ibrahimovic now it’s Lukaku. We need to ready for this fight, but they don’t do that all the time. There are also build-up situations when they try to come between the lines, when they try to use Mkhitaryan with small passes, and he can use his speed or Rashford can use his speed or Lukaku can stretch the formation or Mata with all little movements and then making the big difference with the next pass.
Obviously the opponent has big quality, so we know about that and we are still positive when we think about the game. We are really looking forward to it; it’s one of the most special games in world football. I’ve said a few times, if you were not involved you would watch it, 100 per cent. It’s clear, if you have the opportunity to watch it, you watch it. We know this and we respect this. We want to perform and want to get a result.
On the threat of Romelu Lukaku…
He has matured, of course, but he’s still a young player. I don’t think there was any doubt at any point of his career that he will be a world-class striker – and he was already a world-class striker at Everton. Now, being around these other fantastic players at Manchester United it helps him and he has helped the team so far a lot – he is a real goal-getter if you want. It was not always fantastic play or whatever, but he is really fighting for these goals. He obviously enjoys life in this team a lot and has all the confidence you need as a striker. I’m sure he improved since he joined Manchester United.
On how much of a boost a win would give Liverpool…
If we win? Actually, that’s the only thing I think about. We’ll try with all we have to win but I don’t think about what it will mean then. But it’s a big, big, big opportunity. It is like it is. We are, you probably see it a little bit different, but we are in a really good moment. Not result-wise, not scoring-wise, but performance is not as bad as probably a lot of people think. We are not so weak that we have to think that we don’t have a chance against Man United.
It’s Anfield, it’s our stadium, it’s the first game with the Kenny Dalglish Stand so we want to use really all the power we can get and we can create in this wonderful stadium. I don’t think that it makes sense that we do it like it’s a completely normal game, it isn’t, it should never be. That does not mean you can get more than three points, but it means no excuses - you have to try everything. I don’t understand it like pressure, I really understand it like being an opportunity. It’s a fantastic game and how I see it, two really good football teams against each other. The weather should be good tomorrow I heard, so it’s prepared.
On the importance of players keeping their discipline…
I saw a few games in the past and it is like when I watched the Clasico, for example, Madrid-Barcelona a few years back and I thought the referee really needed to close his eyes sometimes because the challenges were that hard, it was always a red card and stuff like this. If anybody is waiting for this, I think it is not worth waiting. How I understand it, being aggressive means to hurt yourself and not the other one. So we need to be hard against ourselves, we need to be ready for each challenge, but if people are waiting for historical things where the players jump into each other and make bad tackles – I saw a few of them and few of the players involved are really nice guys, meanwhile – it is not possible anymore to play like this in modern football, not even in England. We have to respect the rules and that’s what we do. We have to win. We want to win because we want to win, we don’t want to win because Manchester United should lose. That’s another big difference, for me. That means being positive aggressive not negative.