Jurgen Klopp does not feel sympathy for new Manchester United boss Eric ten Hag after difficult opening matches
A manager coming in from abroad having been a success in their home country, tasked with transforming the fortunes of one of English football’s most prestigious clubs.
If there’s one person who can understand best the challenge now facing Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag, it’s Jurgen Klopp.
Such knowledge, though, doesn’t stretch as far as the Liverpool manager feeling sympathy towards his Old Trafford counterpart. This, of course, is the cut-throat world of the Premier League, a place where sentiment rarely has a place when three points are at stake.
And Klopp has more than enough on his own plate as he prepares his injury-hit squad for the short trip down the East Lancs Road on Monday for the latest clash between the bitter North West rivals.
Like United, the Reds are still awaiting their first victory of the Premier League season having opened with disappointing draws at Fulham and at home to Crystal Palace, the latter of which saw summer signing Darwin Nunez become the latest player on the sidelines having picked up a three-match ban after being dismissed for a needless headbutt on defender Joachim Andersen.
The problems of Ten Hag, then, are simply not Klopp’s concern.
“Do I feel sympathy? No,” says the Reds boss. “If it’s football problems, we (all) have problems. I’m not sure if you go now to Man United and ask Erik ten Hag if he thinks we have a few too many injuries… it’s not like this.
“The sea is full of sharks in the football world. It’s not necessary that I feel sympathy. It would not help them (United), and it would not harm them that I don’t do it. We all have our own problems and that’s it.”
Indeed, as well as missing Nunez, Klopp will also be without Joel Matip, Thiago Alcantara, Ibrahima Konate, Curtis Jones, Diogo Jota, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Calvin Ramsay and Caoimhin Kelleher. More encouragingly, Roberto Firmino has returned from a muscle issue and Naby Keita is fully recovered from a recent bout of illness.
United followed a surprise 2-1 home defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion on the opening weekend with a shocking 4-0 loss at Brentford that brought into sharp focus the difficulties Ten Hag is likely to face as he enforces a new style of play on the team, similar to how Klopp sought when he stepped in at Liverpool in October 2015.
“When we arrived, I don’t think we hit the ground running immediately, did we?” he says. “We played a good game at Tottenham but drew, Simon Mignolet had to make a few big saves, then there was the Europa League, we beat Bournemouth in the League Cup with Clyney’s only goal he ever scored I think!
The players here adapted quickly. I loved our first game. We had two days, and as they came back from internationals we had two days to recover and only one proper session. For a first impression of an idea, it was outstanding. I still can see Adam Lallana running around and pressing everyone. That was a really cool first sign for me.
“But it wasn’t that everybody was like ‘my God, you can see it immediately’. But I can say I didn’t read anything, and that makes it easier because you know if you’re not over the moon about your own results, you know exactly what people might say so you don’t have to read it or be fussed by it. You just focus on work and go for the little steps.
I’m pretty sure that it is in each club the same. But at the bigger clubs you talk more about them. If United or us lose, then you see the first five articles in all newspapers are about that. If other teams lose, it’s not like this. If you are strong enough not to read that, then you can have an okay life and just work on the important stuff. That’s what I have done in seven years and that helps me! That’s the only advice I could give.”
Ten Hag’s high-pressing philosophy was apparent from his first friendly in charge in Bangkok last month, when a strong United side beat an experimental Liverpool line-up 4-0. But with the Dutchman the fifth different United manager Klopp has faced during his seven years at Anfield, the Reds boss has grown accustomed to adjusting preparations accordingly.
Imagine the money Liverpool have saved from not paying them all off!” he laughs. “I should have said that when I signed my last contract… That would be an interesting number, by the way!
“(Ten Hag’s idea) I think it’s clear when you know his Ajax team. You always have to prepare for a different United when they have a different manager. That would make me unnecessary as well if everybody could sit here and the opposing teams would always look the same. Of course, it depends on who is in charge. And they all play differently – very different. Between Van Gaal and Mourinho was very different. You have to prepare completely differently, and we will.”