Home » Jurgen Klopp is everything Erik ten Hag is not! Liverpool boss’ rapid rebuild putting Man Utd manager to shame

Jurgen Klopp is everything Erik ten Hag is not! Liverpool boss’ rapid rebuild putting Man Utd manager to shame

Jurgen Klopp and Erik ten Hag. Liverpool vs Man Utd

Gary Neville was recently asked to name the best manager in the world right now. “I’d say Jurgen Klopp,” the former Manchester United defender told The Daily Ketchup podcast. “Jurgen Klopp works with a budget which is far less than that of Pep Guardiola. Pep Guardiola is a genius, and he’ll be the one who’s remembered forever more.

“But Jurgen Klopp, for me, is an amazing manager. If you said to me which manager could I bring to Manchester United tomorrow, it would be Jurgen Klopp.” Coming from Neville, it was quite the compliment for the Liverpool boss – but also a damning indictment of the current incumbent of the Old Trafford hotseat.

Neville has, of course, repeatedly claimed that the primary problem at United is not the manager – but the owners, arguing with some justification that the club is rotting from the top down. Consequently, the retired right-back has a huge degree of sympathy for Ten Hag, who is experiencing many of the same problems as his predecessors. The former Ajax coach even admitted that many people warned him against moving to Manchester because they considered putting United back on their perch to be an “impossible” job.

However, as the Red Devils and Liverpool prepare to face off at Anfield on Sunday in wildly contrasting condition, it’s hard not to think that Klopp would be making a better fist of it than Ten Hag, with the German perfectly well-placed to prove precisely why Neville and so many others believe him to be the best manager in the game today.

The more things change at United…

The first time Klopp faced United as Liverpool manager, the Red Devils arrived at Anfield sitting sixth in the Premier League table and with a Dutch coach under an enormous amount of pressure. Fair to say, then, that when it comes to United, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Of course, Louis van Gaal led his side to a 1-0 win at Liverpool and actually managed to see out the 2015-16 season – only to be sacked less than 48 hours after winning the FA Cup final – but there is no guarantee that his compatriot Erik ten Hag will even make it to Christmas.

Remember, Van Gaal’s successor, Jose Mourinho, and the Portuguese’s replacement, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, were both sacked shortly after chastening losses to Liverpool.

Manchester United

Merseyside misery

Anfield has also proven a particularly painful place to go for United, who haven’t scored a goal at the home of their most hated rivals for five years, while Ten Hag’s team suffered a historic and humiliating 7-0 hammering on their last visit in March.

There are genuine concerns that United could be on the end of a similar beating in light of recent results. Just last weekend, the shockingly ragged Red Devils suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at home by Bournemouth, who didn’t counter-attack their way to a first-ever win at Old Trafford, but instead played their hosts off the pitch.

At the same venue three days later, a Bayern Munich side that had already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League barely broke sweat in a 1-0 win that ended United’s interest in continental competition for another year.

So, the last thing Ten Hag needed was a north-west derby against a Liverpool side that has been revamped and revitalised by Klopp.

Jurgen Klopp

Klopp’s team in transition is thriving

For a significant period of time last season, the Reds appeared to be unravelling. The punishing pursuit of a historic quadruple took a heavy toll on not only Liverpool’s players but also their manager, who became increasingly testy during a trying 2022-23 campaign that was effectively over by March.

However, a late-season rally lifted the spirits. An 11-game unbeaten run in the Premier League – which featured seven successive wins in the space of a month – may not have proven enough to secure a top-four finish, but it definitely reinvigorated Klopp, whose decision to transform Trent Alexander-Arnold into an auxiliary midfield offered a timely reminder of his tactical acumen and problem-solving skills.

It was still abundantly obvious that the squad needed strengthening and Liverpool moved quickly to bring in Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, which went some way towards softening the bitter blow of missing out on long-term transfer target Jude Bellingham as those rapidly and quietly concluded deals bore all the hallmarks of the shrewd signings that turned Klopp’s team into the ‘Champions of everything’ between 2019 and 2020.

However, the search for a defensive midfielder descended into farce, with Liverpool losing both Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia to Chelsea. The Reds ended up signing Endo Wataru from struggling Stuttgart and Bayern Munich flop Ryan Gravenberch, and both have had their ups and downs since arriving at Anfield.

Nonetheless, Klopp is undeniably managing a team in transition far better than anyone could have envisaged.

Making light of injury issues

The feeling was before the season began that a top-four finish was possible for Liverpool – but that a title challenge was beyond them. However, after 16 rounds, they sit top of the table, having lost just once – and in the most unlucky and controversial of circumstances at Tottenham.

The defence remains suspect but it’s worth pointing out that no Premier League team has conceded fewer goals that the Reds (15) – which is an incredible achievement when one considers that Andy Robertson is a long-term absentee, Joel Matip’s season is probably over, and Ibrahima Konate continues to be plagued by niggling injuries.

Further forward, Thiago Alcantara hasn’t seen a single minute of action so far this season due to a setback suffered during his recovery from hip surgery in April and it’s still not yet known when the influential Spanish midfielder be finally cleared to return to action, while Cody Gakpo and Diogo Jota have also had their issues. Indeed, the latter is currently sidelined with a muscular problem, while Alexis Mac Allister will also sit out the visit of United.

And yet Liverpool keep picking up points, thanks in no small part to Klopp’s capacity to alter the course of games.

From ‘Fergie time’ to ‘Kloppage time’

The Reds have picked up a staggering 18 points from losing positions in this season’s Premier League. Granted, that hints at the suspicion that Liverpool’s defensive deficiencies haven’t gone away, but it also arguably heralds the belated return of Klopp’s “mentality monsters”.

Last month, they came from behind to nick a draw at the Etihad – with Klopp’s bold substitutions and decision to move Alexander-Arnold into midfield proving decisive – and have this season repeatedly taken three points from games that they had no right to win, most notably and dramatically against Newcastle, Fulham and, just last weekend, Crystal Palace.

Liverpool were utterly abysmal for 70 minutes at Selhurst Park and while Jordan Ayew’s stupid dismissal for a needless second yellow card undoubtedly gifted them a route back into the game, that they took it, was down to the astute changes and tactical tweaks made by Klopp, who has made 70 of a possible 80 changes this season.

Harvey Elliott, as he has so often done this season, made a big impact off the bench. And while his late winner obviously dominated the headlines, it was also he who drew the foul by Ayew that saw Palace reduced to 10 men.

It’s certainly no coincidence that three of the last four substitutes to score a 90th-minute winning goal in the Premier League have done so for Liverpool (Elliott, Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota), while it’s also worth noting that the Reds have now netted more injury-time winners under Klopp (17) than United managed under Sir Alex Ferguson (16). As many of the club’s joyful supporters have pointed out this week, ‘Fergie time’ has given way to ‘Kloppage time’.

Liverpool FC Reloaded

Whatever one’s take on that questionable pun, it’s clear that the Reds are on the rise again. Klopp constructed one great team at Anfield; now it seems he’s assembling another.

“Liverpool FC Reloaded” might not win the title this season but the Reds’ rebuilding project is definitely ahead of schedule – and that’s testament to the genius of the manager.

Liverpool have lost some seriously influential figures in recent seasons, on and off the field, but Klopp was always the key to the club’s success – and that’s been underlined during what could have been another trying campaign.

Instead, order has been restored, and optimism has returned ahead of what is always the most eagerly-awaited fixture of the season at Anfield. Because, right now, Liverpool are everything that United are not: a team moving in the right direction again under an outstanding manager held in the highest esteem by players, supporters and opponents.

Whereas Ten Hag appears helpless, utterly bereft of ideas and powerless to prevent United from descending further into farce, Klopp can do no wrong at the moment. He has rediscovered his Midas touch. Even when all looks lost, he is finding a way to win. Neville really must wish he could bring him to United tomorrow.