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Rivalry with Man Utd? No, Liverpool were focused on the title contenders, says Klopp

Klopp and Guardiola

Jurgen Klopp says there has been no opportunity for a bitter rivalry with Manchester United while as he has fought other clubs for silverware during his time in English football.

The Liverpool manager faces United in Sunday’s “all or nothing” FA Cup clash at Old Trafford but the clubs have not been in direct competition for trophies during Klopp’s nine-year tenure.

While Sir Alex Ferguson’s focus when he took charge at Old Trafford in 1986 was Liverpool – and knocking them off their “perch” – Klopp has not used the rivalry as inspiration in his time at Anfield, during which United’s trophy haul has been overtaken. Liverpool have 68 major trophies in their history, one more than United.

“I know the famous phrase with the perch but I had other things to think about than Manchester United when I came, to be honest,” said Klopp.

“In my first year Leicester won the league, second year Chelsea, then Manchester City started winning the league. No, nothing with Manchester United, this is not me. I don’t think about anybody else. If we face them, yes. If we don’t face them, they can do what they want. I have nothing to do with that, I can’t influence it.”

Klopp’s title triumph in 2020 came when they finished 18 points ahead of Manchester City, and twice finished just a point behind Pep Guardiola’s team. Guardiola has said United are not rivals compared to Liverpool. Chelsea, meanwhile, have been defeated in Klopp’s three domestic cup triumphs.

“I didn’t think about it [the rivalry],” said Klopp. “I came in and we played Tottenham first game. That was enough! I am not that smart that I can think about that many different things. I think we lost the first game against United, [Wayne] Rooney I think.

“I thought we were better but they won the game. I remember that but for me I cannot start a development thinking ‘we want to reach there’, I can only do it step by step. We were probably far away, it didn’t hinder us actually, but it was not in my mind.”

Liverpool bring 9,000 travelling fans

Klopp described this weekend’s game as all or nothing, with a place in the FA Cup semi-final at stake and a 9,000 ticket allocation for Liverpool fans, their highest of the modern era.

“I always prefer home games but if it is an away game then [I prefer] the FA Cup. You have this higher allocation, you can take more people. We played Arsenal away in the FA Cup and that was cool as well,” Klopp said.

“We all know the away crowd is a real crowd and they are always there and it makes a massive effort to get. Manchester is a bit closer but in general, wherever we play. The away fans will be on their toes and that is important because Old Trafford can create a special atmosphere, so the more we have to go against that the better it is.

“In general, it is a good place to go actually. It’s real football, it’s all or nothing, a cup competition and then in a few weeks’ time we go there again in the league. Now it is the Cup and it will be decided that day. It sounds great.”


Ten Hag: This is chance to save our season

Erik ten Hag is determined to wreck Jurgen Klopp’s quadruple hopes in a bid to save Manchester United’s season – and possibly his own job.

Defeat in the FA Cup quarter-final tie against Liverpool would end United’s hopes of a trophy this season and increase the pressure on Ten Hag with his team already facing a huge struggle to finish in the top five of the Premier League.

United’s new co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has stressed the importance of securing Champions League qualification both for financial and prestige reasons and two of Ten Hag’s predecessors, David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, were sacked for failing to finish in the top four.

But Ten Hag remains relaxed and confident that his team can spoil Klopp’s so far unstoppable farewell tour, which has already seen Liverpool lift the League Cup while remaining on course for three more trophies.

Against all expectations, United slugged out a goalless Premier League draw at Anfield in December – they are the only team to stop Liverpool from scoring in any competition this season – but Klopp will bring his team to Old Trafford for the last time as a manager having suffered only two defeats in domestic competitions so far this campaign.

“We have to save the season, yes,” said Ten Hag, “and we know we have to catch up in the Premier League. The only opportunity to win silverware now is the FA Cup and we are only three wins away [from doing it].

“Yes, they are big games and we will have to play our best because this game is a test for us. We are playing against a very good team, they are very consistent.

“But we like the test, we like a challenge, and we can within a certain range be relaxed because we believe in ourselves. But we have to prove that.

“Some games are bigger than others and definitely United v Liverpool is big, especially when it’s the quarter-final of the FA Cup. It’s a special game and we are looking forward to it. We’ve had our lows but usually in the high-rated games we were on top form.”

‘Everyone here knows where we are going’

Ineos executives Sir David Brailsford and Jean-Claude Blanc are scrutinising every on- and off-the-field detail to halt United’s decline over the past decade but Ten Hag believes the way he has handled a series of problems in his first two seasons in charge has demonstrated that he is the right man to take the club forward, irrespective of Sunday’s result or whether they salvage Champions League qualification.

After high-profile problems with Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood, plus long injury-enforced absences of several key players, the former Ajax manager insists he now has a unified squad heading in the right direction, even if results and performances have not always shown it.

“It’s about sticking together, you have to face problems together, make sure you are on the same page,” he added. “There is always noise around Manchester United but don’t get distracted by it.

“Everyone here knows where we are going, what the project and process is, why we are in the position we’re in and how can we improve it. We have to have the attitude to always give your best every day, deliver, and then finally you will achieve your aims and goals.”

One of the positives from United’s erratic season has been the development of youngster Alejandro Garnacho. The 19-year-old academy graduate has heeded the advice of Ten Hag and skipper Bruno Fernandes to harness his outstanding individual talent for the benefit of the team.

“It was necessary,” said Ten Hag. “But I would say when you are young, its normal. Football players have to become adults very quickly. You have to learn and take more responsibility. That’s a process but he’s going in a very good direction.

“You achieve the right levels, you keep the focus, and you learn that it’s not only about you but about the team and about what you have to contribute to the team.

“Players like him need a certain freedom to express themselves but with that comes a certain responsibility. You can never separate this because at the end of the day it’s about winning football games. To win football games you need reliable players and especially the ones who are creative. If they make that step then they are very valuable.”

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