Early last month, Sir Alex Ferguson—one of football's legendary figures and former manager of Liverpool's fiercest rival—expressed his concern after the arrival of Jürgen Klopp. The "worried" Manchester United titan couldn't conceal his admiration for Klopp's "fantastic personality", sportsmanship, and track record at Borussia Dortmund. So many English fans admired the 48-year-old Swabian from afar, and it appears that Ferguson was no different.
Let's think about Klopp as a manager for a second—someone who pushes to create something meaningful over a period of time with an identity and philosophy. Would he not look at managers such as Arsène Wenger and Ferguson with respect? Well, Klopp was effusive in his praise of the man who restored Manchester United to prominence after decades of existing in Liverpool's shadow.
"First of all, I had a few really good moments with Sir Alex and for me as a – okay in comparison with him – young manager," Klopp answered after being asked about his relationship with the Manchester United legend. "It’s a big honour to talk to him, for a football manager nearly the best thing you can do, to sit there and listen. I needed 10 minutes to understand all but then I was in the language.
"Maybe he is the greatest ever, the John Lennon of football or something like this, that’s really impressive to talk with him. From my side for sure there is a big amount of respect because what he did in his life as a manager I think it’s not too easy to be done again by another manager so that’s great."
Praising Manchester United too much isn't what Liverpool fans like to see, but it won't matter if Liverpool emerge victorious on Sunday. When a manager is doing well or has the support of the fanbase, words carry a different tone and focus. Of course, there are some things that are astoundingly ill-judged to say when one is tasked to lead Liverpool, but nothing like that applies here. Klopp has always spoken plainly since taking charge of Liverpool and has a history of doing so.
Klopp's main focus, however, is a huge game with Manchester United where Liverpool could display their big-game credentials once again. Both sides were involved in entertaining 3-3 draws in midweek, but there is a chance to use Sunday's game as a platform to build momentum heading into February. The importance of the game was not lost on the man tasked with outwitting Louis van Gaal.
"It’s Man United, it’s a special game for me and for us, for all the players, the club," Klopp said. "I really enjoyed the atmosphere against Arsenal, but I think we can do better and that helps. If everyone who was in the stadium on Wednesday if he or she could get tickets again, do it again. Let’s go."