Liverpool haven’t lost at home to Manchester United since 2016, but both clubs’ fortunes have changed this season with Jurgen Klopp’s side desperately ғɪɢʜᴛing for a top four place
Technically, it’s not even a derby – but for Jurgen Klopp, it is the biggest of the lot; the fixture that is the pure essence of football.
“When Liverpool versus United is not a special game any more then something went really wrong. It has to be like that otherwise football would have absolutely no right to exist any more,” he explains passionately.
Klopp knows he doesn’t have to hype the English El Clasico, he knows taking the fire out of the fixture by playing down it usually works for his side who have dominated the encounter since he arrived at Anfield.
Yet somehow this season, the tables have quietly turned. It is United who come into this titanic ᴄʟᴀsʜ chasing a quadruple after already securing their first trophy before the end of February. United are flying and look hungry, while Liverpool have struggled this season.
Klopp needs the cliche to stand firm that current form goes out of the window in a derby, and passion takes over. He needs that passion from his side – for ᴍɪʟʟɪᴏɴs of reasons.
“We can cut it down to three points, but that is pretty much the only normal stuff, like in other games, if it was just three points then that is the moment it becomes Liverpool v Man Utd, who? That would be really difficult, that would be really sad,” he suggests.
“What I enjoy most is there are so many things that are much more important than football in life, but we all pull ourselves out of this sometimes not so nice reality and dig ourselves into this game.
Jurgen Klopp is desperate to beat Manchester United this weekend (Image: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
“Then football is the most important thing for these 95, 98 minutes. The whole world will watch it, I will watch it! I want to win so I don’t have to look in your faces after a defeat, but on top of that there are five ᴍɪʟʟɪᴏɴ reasons I want to win this!”
Klopp joked that as a Liverpool manager he has nothing positive to say about United, but his admiration is clear on the verge of a fixture that could define both teams’ seasons.
United know they need victory to push themselves into the title race, with defeat virtually ruling them out of that ғɪɢʜᴛ. The Anfield side are in a much worse position, with their top four hopes ʜᴀɴɢɪɴɢ in the balance.
Yet the respect for his opponents was there from Klopp, for Erik ten Hag, and for Marcus Rashford too, a player he has singled out in the past for praise, suggesting he would be proud to have the children’s campaigner as a son.
And the Reds boss admitted he is delighted Rashford has found such incredible form, after being targeted for criticism because his form dipped during his ғɪɢʜᴛ to get the government to feed hungry kids.
“It is difficult, pretty much impossible to be positive about something at Manchester United, where you at the Liverpool manager for seven years, but I am really happy for Rashford,” he said.
“He had a really difficult last year, was not performing at the level he is able to and I knew this would change again and now he is playing incredible, his speed technique, how calm he is in front of goal, he scores worldies, he scores the simple ones.
“They are incredibly difficult to play against, everything they are doing is fantastic but we still have to find a way to make it difficult for them to play against us. That’s why it’s such a big game – it was always was in my life a big game. Thank God it still is.”