As the Reds prepare to meet Manchester United for the first time ever in European competition on Thursday night, Jürgen Klopp sat down exclusively with Liverpoolfc.com to preview the mouth-watering tie.
The teams go head-to-head at Anfield in the first leg of the Europa League last 16 having never previously clashed in continental action.
In the initial part of our chat with Klopp, the boss explains his pride at being manager for the historic encounter and outlines why Liverpool’s focus will be on what they can produce in front of the net, rather than any concerns about conceding an away goal.
LFCTV GO subscribers can watch the entire interview in full now by clicking play on the video above, while part two of the transcript will be published online on Thursday morning.
Jürgen, firstly, you said when the draw was made you wanted Manchester United – why was that?
It was a feeling in the first moment when I saw who was in the next round. I first wanted to ask if it was possible in this round to get an English team – after everybody said it was, then I said I wanted Manchester United, that’s the truth. I cannot really explain [this]. It’s not the longest travel, but one of the most exciting games I could imagine because it’s Manchester United. We are really looking forward to the game, but we don’t know about the result [yet]. To get the opportunity to try again, that’s really enough for me.
It’s the first time Liverpool and Manchester United will have ever played against each other in European competition. How proud are you to be involved in a tie like this?
I’m not too often proud, to be honest – sometimes with my family! But this is the second thing in Liverpool where I am really proud. One thing was that I could sign a part of the Main Stand when they had the opening [topping out ceremony]. It was only a coincidence because I am the manager at this moment, but [to imagine] coming back in 100 years and knowing my name is there! Now we play against Manchester United in a European tournament – that is absolutely cool. Maybe another person would say, ‘In the Champions League would be cooler’. Maybe, but it’s not a dream land. We are really excited about this game and everybody should be.
The team are currently in a good moment after back-to-back wins against Manchester City and Crystal Palace. Are they perhaps in the best form they’ve been in since you arrived?
Possibly, but we’ve had really good moments but with different tournaments. Now we’ll only play in two [competitions], so it’s easier to win in a row in the league because it’s not interrupted by other tournaments. Of course we know Crystal Palace was not the best game we’ve played this season, but at the end no team in the Premier League – no team in the world – will go through [a season] with only brilliant performances, so you have to take results on the average days. That’s what we did in a special way. It was really good and we are in a better moment. In this moment we have more players than we can bring into the line-up, and it’s completely different to other moments in this season. If we handle this situation right, it could create quality.
Given the value of away goals, how much does the fact the first leg is at Anfield come into your thinking when preparing for Thursday, if at all? Does it have an impact on how the team approaches it?
I’ve been involved in a few games as a manager in European tournaments and I really don’t believe too much [in preparing for away goals]. It’s a rule, but first of all why should I think about goals they could score at Anfield before the game starts? We have to defend our goal, that’s how it is – we have to protect ourselves, we have to create chances, we have to play football and we have to work hard. That is what we have to do, not think about if they get one goal then we’ll have to make two goals or whatever. Most results don’t give you the absolute guarantee that the next game will be an easy one in Manchester – they are for sure two really tough, tough games. You have to know about this and you have to be ready for this, and not think about what can we do so they don’t score a goal, or if we don’t score a goal [at Anfield] one goal in Manchester could be enough or whatever. We have to play as good as is possible for us, we have to work as hard as possible – or more – and that’s all.
Stay tuned to Liverpoolfc.com on Thursday morning for part two of our exclusive interview with Jürgen Klopp ahead of the Reds' Europa League clash with Manchester United.