IT TAKES a manager with immense will, vision and charisma to swing the balance of power between England’s two mightiest clubs.
History tells us it usually takes a Scotsman — Matt Busby to establish Manchester United as the nation’s preeminent side, Bill Shankly to build Liverpool’s ‘bastion of invincibility’ and then Sir Alex Ferguson to knock the Anfield men off their “f***ing perch”.
Jurgen Klopp — or perhaps we should call him Big Jock McKlopp — has now earned a place alongside those tartan titans of the managerial game.
The German has many of the same traits as the three great Scots.
He is a man of the people, a natural leader and a blue-collar worker, who fits the Liverpool ethos perfectly.
Ferguson identified him as trouble the moment he rocked up at Anfield and, as usual, the old knight’s instincts were correct.
Liverpool may not yet have won their first title under Klopp but it is only a matter of time until they chalk up their 19th top-flight crown — after a 30-year hiatus — moving them to within one of United’s record.
And as any Kopite will tell you, the European Cup count now stands at 6-3 in favour of the Merseysiders.
The chasm between Liverpool and United is vast.
Klopp’s men are 27 points clear of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s mob with a game in hand, while already boasting the status of champions of Europe and the world.
Yet Solskjaer’s side are the only team to deny Liverpool victory in the league this season, following a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in October.
And Klopp has managed only one win in eight Premier League meetings with his club’s most-bitter rivals.
He admits his team — who have been virtually flawless over the past year — must improve against United.
And he showed a true Fergie trait in yesterday’s pre-match press conference when he suggested the world — or at least a fair percentage of the Premier League — was against his side.
Klopp claimed Liverpool’s list of “natural enemies” made life more difficult for his side.
He said: “It’s a very, very important football game and we have to make sure we are at our best.
“We know the importance to our supporters but we cannot treat it differently.
“I hope people understand — like against Everton — it (the rivalry) is an add-on, we play all games for our supporters, not only these games.
“But Liverpool have more natural enemies than other clubs and the reason is our history, how successful this club has been.
“When we play United and Everton — and now City is getting more like that — it is like the most important match of the season. But when we went to Newcastle (last season) I had no idea about it but it felt like they wanted to win that game and for us not be champions.
“Newcastle didn’t play for anything really that day, not to stay in the league or play in Europe.
“I had to ask ‘Did anything happen in the past between us and Newcastle?’.
“I don’t think we added new ones (enemies) this season but we already have enough and it makes it difficult.”
This siege mentality talk is a classic from the Ferguson playbook — although Liverpool, whose supporters refer to themselves as ‘The Unbearables’, certainly do have a way of making themselves unpopular with neutrals, despite the fact neither Klopp nor any of his players are obvious villains.
And while Liverpool are so dominant it is difficult to find a case for any United player being worthy of a place in Klopp’s first team, Solskjaer’s men have become Liverpool’s trickiest opponents.
Klopp was groaning once more yesterday about the defensive nature of United’s play against them — highlighting the last two drawn visits to Old Trafford.
But the levelling nature of their rivalry — the grandest and, probably the most toxic, in English football — is nothing knew.
United more than held their own in these showpiece matches during Liverpool’s long period of dominance during the 1970s and ’80s.
And Liverpol managed five straight victories over United between 2000-02 while Fergie’s side were all-conquering.
So good have Liverpool been while going more than a year unbeaten in the league, Klopp can rarely talk about his side needing to improve, while still keeping a straight face.
But against United he has a point.
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He said: “We can improve against United. When we went there we were not at our best.”
Even though most fatalistic Liverpool fans know their team cannot blow the title from here.
And yet the prospect of watching United humiliated at Anfield can never get old for them.
This one always matters to them. Even when the table suggests it shouldn’t.
This post written by Jack Figg originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.