Just about all that’s missing from Jurgen Klopp’s managerial career is a win at Old Trafford.
Even with no points at stake, it is paramount that he breaks that duck as the Liverpool season falls apart amid major injuries and four goal-less league games.
After sending the kids out to play in the FA Cup last season, Klopp will turn to star man Mo Salah to start against the old foe. The Egyptian, whose contract went into effect in the last 18 months, has a certain point to prove in a stadium where he has never scored.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has never won a match at Old Trafford in his management career
The Reds will face bitter rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup fourth round at Old Trafford
Klopp’s response to the shocking home defeat against Burnley on Thursday was to divert the attention of his players and take responsibility for himself.
The German is an unusually passionate person, even for a high-profile manager, and has a particularly intense bond with the places where he works. At 53, he has managed only three teams in 20 years; Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.
Unlike Jose Mourinho, who started his management career only 12 months earlier and is in his ninth club.
‘I don’t feel any outside pressure. I have dealt with the pressures I put on myself all my life. I’m used to that and know myself well enough, ‘says a reflective Klopp of dealing with a rare breakdown.
‘In the short term, I’m pretty easy to get excited, but it’s hard to make me really happy with anything in the long run. It is not easy.
Klopp diverted the players’ attention and turned responsibility on himself after Burnley’s loss
‘If you’ve had our success, there are two directions after that. You keep going at the exact same level, which is difficult with the challenges out there. Or it gets a little less. At the moment it feels like it is a lot less and of course we have to. ‘
Liverpool are of course entitled to a blip given last season’s Premier League title and two consecutive Champions League finals.
They’ve dealt this season with first-choice center-backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez who have sustained long-term injuries yet remain the Premier League’s top scorers, just six points from the top and nearly four unbeaten at home. years before last week was upset.
But Klopp is too perfectionist and cares too much about excuses.
Behind the scenes he may be a tough teacher, but to the audience he is sensitive to his players. He will know that Trent Alexander-Arnold has the first dip of his career, while Roberto Firmino’s total of five goals in 27 appearances is not good enough for a Liverpool forward, regardless of other attributes.
Liverpool are experiencing a bleep after winning the Premier League title and the Champions League
This is a time for Klopp to circle the wagons and in that respect Old Trafford is the perfect place to start.
“The tests we face are constantly in public and on television,” he added as he defended his players. That means that everyone looks at every small step in any direction. That is of course very nice if you run nice and fast. If it’s not a good run, there isn’t the same fun.
“Sometimes you need a really low point to change things well and that’s definitely what we’ll try, what we’re going for now.”
Significantly, his two most experienced players, skipper Jordan Henderson and James Milner, were not on the field against Burnley. Henderson was injured while Milner was held back from this United clash, allowing others to take a break from Thursday’s equally big game at Spurs.
Klopp can trust without asking his battle-hardened couple to settle any concerns in the locker room.
The German decided on Sunday to stop the battle-hardened James Milner against Burnley
“I can imagine what a lot of people think of us at the moment, but the players don’t change overnight,” said Klopp.
‘They are still brilliant people and brilliant characters, all of them. They made what has happened over the years and they don’t change their personality overnight. This is a challenge we didn’t want to face.
Was it absolutely impossible for it to happen? No, especially in the situation we are in. It is still a very good group, led by some [Henderson and Milner] that are always strong. But I don’t have to ‘use’ them because they work without a remote. They have always been incredibly important. ‘
The FA Cup has not been at the top of Klopp’s priority list since coming to England in 2015. Liverpool have only made it past the fourth round once in that time – last year when under-23 boss Neil Critchley took charge of the replay against Shrewsbury. while Klopp and his first-team players were on a medium sabbatical.
On this occasion, Klopp will be in full charge, putting more pressure on himself than any fan, expert or keyboard warrior can handle. It is well documented that his tenure at Dortmund lasted seven years and this is his sixth at Anfield. Yet there is not even the slightest sign that he is demob happy.
“We don’t think we should get everything just because we try,” he says. ‘At the moment we have not used the right tools and that is what we absolutely need to improve. We are really ready for battle, 100 percent. ‘