What I like about Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is his raw enthusiasm for the beautiful game and the respect he has shown for Manchester United. The genial German has been a breath of fresh air since moving into the Merseyside hotseat and when you look past the media spin you will recognise his genuine class.
Typically the British media would rather peddle a theme of hatred between England’s two most famous clubs. Healthy, respectful rivalry is not language that sells newspapers or attracts the maximum eyeballs online.
In the countdown to Sunday’s clash at Anfield, we were told Klopp “snubbed” United! The truth is this a mischievious interpretation of Klopp’s explanation of why he effectively ruled himself out of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, because he was ‘committed to his project at Borussia Dortmund’.
How many of the media so keen to promote a conflict between these giants of the game gave equal billing to Klopp comparing Sir Alex to John Lennon in his respectful declaration that Fergie is probably the greatest British manager of all time?
There is no doubt how badly Klopp wants to win his first managerial joust with Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United. It was refreshing to witness his unbridled joy in celebrating the dramatic late equaliser that gave Liverpool a 3-3 draw against Arsenal in midweek. United fans would love nothing better than to see the same kind of raw passion from LVG at Anfield tomorrow. The Dutchman in contrast looked like he’d suffered a death in the family after United’s equally spectacular 3-3 draw at Newcastle the night before.
But which will be the more successful manager in 2016?
It is fair to say that Klopp is currently more popular in the red half of Merseyside than Van Gaal is on the red side of Manchester. But reputations ebb and flow in the topsy turvy fantasy football world of the Premier League. It will be interesting to see how the two managers are perceived by the public after Sunday’s showdown, because the popularity of football managers in the modern era is more akin to the fragile likeability of make believe chracters in a TV soap opera.