How Jurgen Klopp delivered unforgettable Liverpool moments to reign over rivals Man Utd

Klopp is set to end his rivalry against Manchester United, having overseen some unmissable moments after choosing Liverpool following an interview for the job at Old Trafford

Richard Jolly
Saturday 06 April 2024 13:19 BST
Jurgen Klopp says Alexis Mac Allister ‘wonder goal’ was Liverpool turning point

It was like Disneyland, according to Ed Woodward’s infamous, almost apocryphal and ultimately unsuccessful sales pitch. It was not enough to persuade Jurgen Klopp to join Manchester United. Later, he instead signed up for historic rivals. He has been an indictment of United, not an inspiration for them. Klopp against United has been a nine-season battle that comes to an end on Sunday.

In some respects, he has only shaded it. United have actually finished ahead of Liverpool four times, including the season when Klopp was parachuted into Anfield in October.

The final score there will only be 5-4. Klopp will end up with another winning record: seven victories to five so far, but, explosive as many of his games can seem, draws outnumber either. He has not beaten United in two games this season, despite 59 shots. He has lost on both trips to Old Trafford in Erik ten Hag’s reign. He has only won twice in 10 visits there.

And yet those wins were seminal, sensational, spectacular. A 4-2 in May 2021, three days before Alisson headed Liverpool’s injury-time winner against West Bromwich Albion, came amid a surge into the Champions League places from a team without senior specialist centre-backs. The rookies Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips played at Old Trafford, the latter assisting Diogo Jota’s goal, before taking their return journeys to obscurity.

Five months later, there were five goals in the first 50 minutes; Liverpool were 5-0 up, Paul Pogba came on and was promptly sent off and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pronounced it his darkest day as United manager. It ensured there weren’t too many other days, too: he limped on for four more games.

And it underlined an aspect. Klopp’s wins felt momentous and consequential; immediate illustrations of where United were going wrong, sometimes catalysts for change. Jose Mourinho was sacked two days after 2018’s 3-1 defeat at Anfield where the scoreline obscured the level of Liverpool’s dominance as they chalked up 36 shots.

Klopp has provided everything Manchester United crave in his time at Liverpool
Klopp has provided everything Manchester United crave in his time at Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

That was Klopp’s second victory. His first, in the Uefa Cup in 2016, was an advertisement for the energy of his football. It suggested Liverpool had hired the future and United, in Louis van Gaal, had the past; they soon came to that conclusion, too. His third win was also 2-0 at Anfield: it ended with the Kop, scarred by near-misses, chorusing: “We’re going to win the league”. Sir Alex Ferguson had knocked Liverpool off their perch: Klopp restored them there and the second goal, sparking their fans’ admission they were unstoppable, was assisted by Alisson.

It was scored by the single most influential player in the rivalry in the Klopp years. Mohamed Salah contributed a hat-trick in the 5-0 win. He has goals in his last five visits to Old Trafford, a record 10 league goals in the fixture. United, by way of contrast, have only scored twice at Anfield during Klopp’s tenure.

The twin triumphs at Old Trafford in 2021 were Klopp’s fourth and fifth victories. There is a case for arguing the sixth represented the finest performance of all: a 4-0 evisceration at Anfield in April 2022 took the aggregate score between the clubs that season to 9-0. It featured a masterclass by Thiago Alcantara, two more goals by Salah and some confused thinking by the godfather of gegenpressing who may have been designed as United’s answer to Klopp, with Ralf Rangnick drafting in Phil Jones and switching to a back three. It didn’t work.

Then there is the most recent victory, the most emphatic ever in a fixture that dates back to 1894. Liverpool 7 Manchester United 0: a scoreline to echo through the ages. “One for the history books,” Klopp said. “A crazy score.” But his reign has featured a host of them, of unmissable occasions, unforgettable days.

‘A crazy score’: Klopp has tormented Manchester United at times throughout his tenure at Anfield
‘A crazy score’: Klopp has tormented Manchester United at times throughout his tenure at Anfield (Getty)

Part of the measure of Klopp’s success is that he has claimed two prizes United have never threatened to secure in the last decade, in the Premier League and the Champions League, even if he has finished second in each more often than first. Another is that he has delivered most of what both United owners and supporters, two very different constituencies, would want: prospering on a budget, without criticising the powerbrokers, yet generating a bond with the crowd, offering entertaining football, underlining the sense there is something special about his club. Meanwhile, on and off the field, United have lost their way.

If Liverpool’s job description for their next manager could simply be to copy Klopp, the same may be said for every United manager in recent years; now, having played his part in finishing off Mourinho and Solskjaer, he could help doom Ten Hag. Or, perhaps, United could strike a double blow to Klopp’s fairytale farewell, costing Liverpool the FA Cup and derailing their Premier League title push. Ten Hag has already changed the course of his reign by registering his first win at Klopp’s expense: perhaps his FA Cup victory last month will help buy him another season. But even if Klopp bows out against United with a defeat, Liverpool have been the real winners of his rivalry with the club who once tried to hire him.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in