Jürgen Klopp has said Liverpool will be under “too much pressure” should they consider Sunday’s visit to Manchester United a defining moment in the title race rather than an opportunity to inflict a first Premier League defeat of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s reign.
The Liverpool manager is acutely aware of the perception that Old Trafford is the most difficult assignment remaining, on paper at least, in his team’s pursuit of a first league championship for 29 years. Liverpool will move three points clear of Manchester City with a first win at United since their last title challenge in 2014, but Klopp believes it would be self-defeating to consider the wider implications of Sunday’s outcome.
“If we would see it like a lot of people see it – that it is the game – then that is too much pressure on everybody,” said Klopp, who remains without the injured defenders Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren. “You cannot do it like that. If we lose the game, and I don’t think about losing the game, then we are still level on points with Man City, and Tottenham are probably only two points behind. That is the worst thing that can happen.
“We have a chance to play an outstanding last period of the season, starting with one of the most difficult games. Even if we were 20 points ahead there is no guarantee we will win away at Manchester United because it’s Man United and there is always a reason why they especially want to beat us. We have to think about how can we cause them problems and that is the only thing we are thinking about. I cannot constantly think about the consequences of any result. If we win, what does that mean? We are in good shape.
“It will never be decided 12 matchdays before the end. They will all be tough. Now it is a really big one, I know that, I respect that. We are involved in that as well. You think it is only a big game for Manchester United? If you go in our dressing room they are all long enough here and if you are not long enough here the other guys will tell you. Everybody knows that Manchester United against Liverpool is one of the biggest games in world football. We have to prepare for that and still play a game.”
The Liverpool manager added that he believes that Solskjær will be United manager next season having restored “all the things Sir Alex Ferguson stood for” at Old Trafford. The Norwegian’s impact since his loan arrival from Molde – 11 victories in 13 games plus revitalising the likes of Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial – makes it inevitable to Klopp that Solskjær will become the permanent replacement for José Mourinho.
“I’m really happy for Ole that he got the opportunity to show his quality,” the Liverpool manager added. “It’s not the best news for us obviously, but for all Man United fans it’s brilliant that they bring in all the things Sir Alex Ferguson stood for, but with all the new things in football. That’s really good, and makes them a threat again.
“He showed everything what you need, together with his coaches. They made a few smart decisions and it worked out because of different things – you score this goal or not and concede a goal here then it goes in the other direction. But he has the quality and had the luck in the right moment. Now he’s in charge and there’s no doubt that he will be the manager next year as well. That’s clear. Can you imagine one situation when they say: ‘We bring in another manager?’”