Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp lauded counterpart Louis van Gaal for overseeing a change in fortunes at Manchester United as the two teams prepare to face off in the Europa League.
While the first leg of the last-16 tie has been billed as the “mother of all football games” in one of the sport’s biggest rivalries, Klopp had nothing but kind words for Van Gaal, who orchestrated a four-match winning streak in all competitions prior to Sunday’s surprise loss at West Brom.
Reportedly on the verge of being sacked following back-to-back defeats, Van Gaal responded with consecutive wins against Shrewsbury Town, Midtjylland, Arsenal and Watford before Salomon Rondon halted that run in the Premier League.
And Klopp was quick to point out Van Gaal’s record ahead of Thursday’s blockbuster showdown at Anfield, though the German also highlighted Liverpool’s fine form.
“I think it’s pretty close in terms of quality. We are both in a good moment. Okay, United lost the last game but a few weeks ago there was a lot of pressure on Louis van Gaal and United and they handled it really well,” said Klopp.
“You thought they had big, big problems but then three games later they are close to the Champions League.
“Van Gaal is one of the most successful managers in the world. I am pleased for him that he could change the situation a little bit.
“I don’t believe in enemies in football. I have absolutely no problem with Van Gaal but last thing I want is for him to win this.”
Liverpool’s 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace on Sunday made it three successive league wins for the first time this season.
Christian Benteke’s controversial last-gasp penalty at Selhurst Park helped Liverpool up to seventh in the Premier League, just three points adrift of United and six behind fourth-placed City.
“We have to be ready but we are in a good moment too. We’re looking forward to these games,” Klopp added.
“It’s big. It’s the only thing that counts in this moment. I hope it’s not the biggest in my Liverpool career.
“We know what we have to do. The reaction in the last 30 minutes against Palace was really worth watching. We reacted well. Result like that helps.
“This is a completely different situation [to January]. We have more players available. This is the best moment we’ve had here.”