Jurgen Klopp has saved best for last at Liverpool like Sir Alex’s last hurrahs

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Sir Alex Ferguson
Jurgen Klopp and Sir Alex Ferguson with a Liverpool badge.

Liverpool’s comeback victory over Luton at Anfield was the latest evidence in the case for this season being Jurgen Klopp’s greatest with the Reds, and one that has many parallels with the latter years of the club’s greatest rival for decades, Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Of course, there are other similarities between the two great managers’ successes at their respective north-west clubs, with both resuscitating a fallen giant and putting them back on top, or on their perch if you will.

But for now, let’s compare this season at Anfield to the final four years of Fergie’s reign at Old Trafford.

Like the 2009 summer when the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez marked the end of the road for the Scotsman’s fourth and final great team, Liverpool and Klopp had a summer of serious change, and one which felt like it would lead to a transitionary period.

A muddled and oft-embarrassing transfer window eventually saw Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai arrive to replace club captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho who, like Firmino, left for the highly immoral riches of the Saudi Pro League.

In contrast, James Milner decided to continue his quest to break the all-time Premier League appearances record with Brighton as his contract expired. It ended an eight-year spell at the club which pre-dated Klopp’s arrival.

This followed Sadio Mane’s exit a year earlier and signalled the full break-up of Klopp’s 2018-22 vintage. Previous stalwart, Gini Wijnaldum, had already moved on in 2021.

Outside of only the most positive and/or deluded fans, few tipped the Reds to be sitting top of the pile at any point of the season, let alone in late February, while still competing on four fronts.

READ: Football365’s own pre-season predictions that gave Liverpool no chance

But that is the current state of play with it all feeling very-Fergie 2009-13-like in its execution.

On Sunday, Klopp can get his hands on the first domestic trophy of the season when his side faces Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea in the League Cup final. Ferguson and United did in 2009/10.

No side has won more points – 22 – from behind than Liverpool so far this season or come close to it in truth.

Comeback victories, as seen against Newcastle, Fulham, Crystal Palace, Luton and others, have become commonplace like they were for United across the years. Both sides’ home records also stack up.

Liverpool have yet to lose at Anfield this season, drawing just once, while United won 18 and drew one at Old Trafford in the 2010/11 season. Both grounds remained fortresses, and intangibles are obvious when you examine each side.

The winning mentality. The never-say-attitude. The aura of years gone by. The near-muscle memory. Simply just knowing how to win, regardless of who is on the pitch both against you and in your side.

As a result of an ever-growing injury list, Klopp has been forced to chop and change, put square pegs in round holes and simply make to do with what he has available to him.

It has seen Jarell Quansah and Conor Bradley step up to the first team in style, while affording Joe Gomez a chance at resurrecting his Anfield career.

Wataru Endo, a clear panic buy after failed moves for Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, has played more, and to levels perhaps not anticipated. Curtis Jones has upgraded from utility option to key midfield man.

It has shades of Fabio and Rafael coming into the United first team, Darren Fletcher fully shedding his tag as ‘Fergie’s favourite’ in 2009/10, and Darron Gibson and Anderson coming in to not just do a job but score in European semi-finals.

Two 2-0 FA Cup wins against Arsenal – for Liverpool in January of this year, and United in March of 2011, perhaps best sum up both managers’ brilliance and their squad management.

Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk were among several absentees for the Reds, but they still prevailed in the end, despite a first-half onslaught from the Gunners.

Thirteen years ago, Ferguson famously fielded seven defenders against a strong Arsene Wenger side but still saw off his old rival. They both just knew how to win.

It helped, obviously, that they still had some of their best players from the former great sides. For Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra, see Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson and Alisson.

They provide the backbone and make it easier for others to come into the side, which makes Liverpool’s current form all the more impressive given Salah’s Africa Cup of Nations and injury absence, as well as issues for all but their Dutch skipper in recent months.

Another reason, perhaps, for this is the wide range of options Klopp has in his squad, many of whom are of a relatively equal standard – Diaz’s strike against Luton made him the fifth player to score 10-plus this season, and it’s not even March.

It is similar to how Ferguson rotated Chicharito, Danny Welbeck, Nani, Park, Valencia et al., slotting them in next to Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and, later, Robin van Persie to maximum effect.

It has to be also added that, even after seeing your team reach the zenith of the sport playing incredible football like United fans did in 2008 and Liverpool fans a decade or so on, there is something fantastic about winning while you’re on the comedown from such heights.

It defies sense and logic. Liverpool fans must be rubbing their eyes at times when they see their side ahead of the all-conquering behemoth that is Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

It is similar, if not the same given City have scaled new heights under the Catalonian, to when Ferguson was being outspent consistently by both the ‘noisy neighbours’ and Chelsea in his final few seasons, and long before in the Blues’ case.

Both managers’ greatness has allowed them to overcome the financial disparities that exist(ed) and shield the American owners that employ(ed) them in the process.

Anti-Glazer protests kicked off even before their takeover was confirmed in 2005 and continued on throughout the glory years – the green-and-gold scarves came out in 2010 with the side gunning for four league titles in a row for those who do not recall but vitriol, of course, increases when the club’s decline is so obvious on the pitch.

The same course of action could take place at Anfield for FSG when Klopp departs at the end of the season – John W. Henry and co. can be thankful for the German’s brilliance over the last eight years, but especially this season after they largely let him down in the summer.

Will Klopp sign off in style, defeating City for his club’s title No.20 like Ferguson did in 2013? Only time will tell but regardless, this season he has again shown he is a managerial genius like few before.

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