alex ferguson and Jurgen klopp

The bench at Old Trafford has been seeking a long-term successor to Sir Alex Ferguson ever since the legendary manager stepped down at the end of the 2012-13 season after 27 years in charge.His first anointed heir was David Moyes, who had the backing of Ferguson and the board but did not last a single season at Old Trafford.Between Moyes and Mourinho came Louis van Gaal, who was sacked two years into a three-year deal despite winning the FA Cup in his final season, and interim coach Ryan Giggs, who was long touted for the top job but had to settle for four games at the end of the 2013-14 season. Mourinho had a mixed tenure  with Europa trophy, league cup and second-place finish but left unhappy as he described due to influences “behind the scenes”.

As Liverpool come closer to finally winning their maiden premier league title, we look back at the events and eerie similarities between how Jurgen Klopp and Alex Ferguson ran parallel to their Liverpool and Manchester United careers. 

Why Klopp joined Liverpool and not Manchester United

Manchester United told Klopp that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with them and, also, that he would not have the resources to challenge Bayern who were reasserting their dominance of the German game. But Klopp said he was committed to German club Borussia Dortmund and the timing was not right for him.

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward flew to see Klopp just weeks before Moyes’ sacking. Ed Woodward told Klopp that the Theatre of Dreams was ‘like an adult version of Disneyland’, a mythical place where, as the nickname suggested, the entertainment was world class and dreams came true. However, Klopp apparently found Woodward’s bizarre comparison between United and Disneyland “a bit unsexy” and therefore decided to remain at Dortmund. 

Klopp then signed a contract extension with Dortmund taking him up to 2018 but he quit at the end of the 2014-15 season. Jurgen Klopp took over at Liverpool that October following the dismissal of Brendan Rodgers and will, of course, be in the home dug out at Anfield for Saturday’s Premier League fixture against United.

Jurgen Klopp turned down super-rich clubs after Borussia Dortmund – one of them was definitely ­Manchester United, the other probably Real Madrid – because he hated how they were focused solely on ­commercial influences.Jurgen Klopp liked Liverpool because they had a balance between the money needed to reach the top and the ­history and identity of the club and their fans.

There is another intriguing story which says that Jurgen Klopp’s wife, a social worker and children’s writer, predicted United’s current struggles and advised her husband to say no to Manchester United. Jurgen Klopp could have been persuaded to take over Manchester United, but his wife said it wasn’t right. When Liverpool arrived, his wife said it was right. There is something strange there. It is as if he’s created for Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp said ” A little thing. Liverpool is a world class brand, big, big, big, but in Melwood, you know it Robbie, it is still a family, nothing else, and you can go in and feel that. I have to develop and improve, sure, but I don’t want to go into the office in the morning to wear a tie. That is not me. It is a football club. A football club. I had talks with other clubs and they didn’t sound like a football club. It sounded like marketing, image, you need to sign this, you need to sign that. And I thought wow, that’s not the game I love. It’s all part of football, but it can not be the number one, two, three, four, priority.  First of all please try to improve the game we play. And that’s what I am good in. All the rest can happen but it’s not so important for me.”

Similarity 1 – Both joined when the club’s were at their lows, trying to come back many times but failed

Similar to previous managers at Liverpool who had brought nearly premier league title, some cups ,outgoing manager Ron Atkinson  in 1986 was well liked by fans, having brought two FA Cups during his time in charge with a vivacious and attacking style . Matt Busby, Wilf McGuinness, Frank O’Farrell, Tommy Docherty and Ron Atkinson all tried to bring the title back to Old Trafford, but it took the appointment of Ferguson to restore the club to their former glories. But United’s board made a decision to appoint “Fergie” or “Alec” to those who knew him well.

On 27 April 2014, Rodgers was being carried along on a crest of euphoria that looked certain to make him the first Liverpool manager to win the title in 24 years.A 2-0 loss to Chelsea, including the infamous slip from Steven Gerrard, started a chain of events that ended with his dismissal an hour after the 1-1 Merseyside derby draw with Everton at Goodison Park. From Graeme Souness to Roy Hodgson, Rafa Benitez, Kenny Daglish and Gerrard Houllier everyone tried to restore Liverpool to its former glories but failed. Like Ron Atkinson and Manchester United board, Liverpool owners FSG conducted a full review into Liverpool’s season,  felt that sacking Rodgers and bringing in Jurgen Klopp was the only way to get to the title.

Similarity 2 – Both gave complete disregard to the past glories when they joined

Alex Ferguson said “I am not really interested in what has happened here in the past. I don’t mean any disrespect to the great achievements of Manchester United over the years. It’s simply that now there is only one way to go, and that is forward. The aim at this club must clearly be to win the championship. Putting them in a position to challenge consistently would, I knew, be a long haul. I would have to build from the bottom up, rectifying the flaws I had recognized and spreading my influence and self-belief through every layer of the organization. I wanted to form a personal link with everybody around the place—not just the players, the coaches and the backroom staff but the office workers, the cooks and servers in the canteen and the laundry ladies. All had to believe that they were part of the club and that a resurgence was coming.”

Jurgen Klopp said “Our story started a few months ago so you cannot compare us with anyone else. You cannot carry the history on our backs, we should feel free for creating something in the near future. If everybody wants to say ‘We wait now for 20-something years for silverware’ or whatever, we can say ‘Okay, we (have) tried, actually, only since a year’. So that gives us the freedom to look in the future quite optimistically. The most important thing for us is the pathway to the first team.I think we have shown that with the work Alex (Inglethorpe, academy director) and his staff do we offer a clear pathway to first-team football if the players embrace what is on offer for them. I cannot praise them (the academy) enough for the culture and environment they have there. It is perfect.The players know that it’s not just about ability: it’s application and a willingness to keep learning.”

Similarity 3 – Both took time to rebuild their squad’s , culture of the club and came close to winning the title .

In those first six years in charge, Alex Ferguson revamped the scouting system and the academy and most certainly proved that “a resurgence was coming. Alex Ferguson was incredibly fortunate United gave him the time to build what he set out to put in place. It is a parable for the power of long-term thinking, an antithesis in so many ways to the way football is run.  In 1991-1992 season when Manchester United won the cup winners cup by beating Barcelona, they thought they had also won the title by running so close it yet in the end, it was eventually lost out to Leeds United in a dramatic fashion.

In a more dramatic fashion for Liverpool, 2018-2019 saw them winning Champions league trophy yet it was the premier league maiden title which was lost to Manchester City in a dramatic fashion. The festive period saw Liverpool open up a gap at the top and the victory on Dec. 29 at home to Arsenal sent them nine points clear of second-placed Spurs. A ninth straight win came courtesy of a Roberto Firmino hat-trick but any euphoria at Anfield was tempered by the knowledge that City awaited on Jan. 3 2019.  The first – and so far only – defeat of two seasons ( as of Jan 2020) for Liverpool transformed the title race. Klopp’s side came into the match knowing a victory would have sent them 10 points clear of City but they left the Etihad with their lead cut to four. City finished the season with 98 points with Liverpool, beaten just once all campaign, a single point behind at 97 points which was the highest points chase ever in English premier league history.

Similarity 4 – After near maiden title win, a talisman arrived with some controversy to help them win maiden title…

After the heartbreak loss to Leeds United, Manchester United were struggling with scoring goals in the front and draws that made them no more than a mid table team during early part of 1992-1993 season. And then during November, a talisman arrived  in their ranks – Eric Cantona. His goals galvanized the club and finally a maiden title was won in 1992-1993 season.

While Liverpool had a more planned approach in bringing a talisman but before he arrived, Liverpool’s defense was a disaster. One can only remember Tottenham game against Liverpool as one of the many examples on how a perfect attack was thwarted by a shambolic defense with Clyne, Lovren leading the lines.  One of the longest transfer sagas came to an end over the Christmas period, when Van Dijk was finally prised away from Southampton. Southampton initially rebuffed Liverpool’s summer advances and the Merseyside club was forced to apologise after Saints asked the Premier League to investigate whether an illegal approach was being made. Immediately after joining, Liverpool’s defense became calm and steady. The leadership provided by VanDjik has been given as unquestionable reason for Liverpool achieving so much.

Similarity 5 – Both have disdain on spending big money on players and prefer to look at youth, smart purchases and work ethic …

Sir Alex never was interested in spending much on new players. He respected and appreciated young talent always. For him, no player was bigger than the club or any of his teammates. According to him, the essence of a team is that the players, the team members understand each other’s abilities, what they’re good at and what they’re not good at. And to understand that sometimes a player can have an off day–  can go to the beach. In the sense of a football match, normally it takes eight, nine players to win a game, and two or three can have off days, just not playing well. The important thing is that you lead them to certain standards so that the team ethic becomes more simplified in terms of, they know their objectives.

1992-1998 net spend ( Alex Ferguson )
Newcastle: £40,570,000 (> 4000% more than United)
Arsenal: £31,070,000 (> 3100% more than United)
Liverpool: £29,625,000 (> 2900% more than United spent)
Chelsea: £27,705,000 (> 2700% more than United spent)
Spurs: £18,630,000 (> 1800% more than United spent)
City: £12,070,000 (> 1200% more than United spent)
United: -£40,000

2015-Present net spend ( Jurgen Klopp )

Similarity 6 – Both have disdain on media going  into their club dressing room and collecting stories..

In recent years, television and reality TV has not just gained entry in the footballer’s life but also dressing room which has most intense relationship between manager and his players. Manchester City released the All or Nothing documentary, which covers their record-breaking 100-point season in the 2017-18 Premier League. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said he would leave his job if the club released footage from inside the dressing room.

Jurgen Klopp said “If LFCTV had put out a video of me in that situation, I would leave the club. That’s the truth, and that’s all I will say about that.”

In this regard, Sir Alex Ferguson had many off the pitch battles in the dressing room but none of them came out clearly or got leaked accurately in media until the gaffe retired and books were written by legendary manager and ex players. The decision to offload star striker Ruud van Nistelrooy during the 2006 League Cup final, leakage of the infamous dressing room row between Sir Alex and Beckham which led to the latter’s departure to Real Madrid, Roy Keane MUTV incident, Wayne Rooney transfer request and dropping him from match day squad’s were just of many incidents which happened during the dressing room talks but never came out in public or got punished with transfers.

Similarity 7 – Both like to blow away teams with goals as quickly as possible in the game and then control it …

Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp has gained a reputation for blowing teams away in concentrated spells, often scoring goals  in  first-half minutes. Feeding strikers with their amazing front three and destroy the opposition before they have woken up is how they like to play every match.

Sir Alex Ferguson never really cared about the ball possession until the team was up and winning. His aggression on the sidelines boosted and pressured the players to play exactly as their boss suggested. His team was always ready to attack and left no chance behind to do a counter attack on the opposition.

Both Alex Ferguson and Jurgen Klopp preferred their winger’s to attack  down the side channels to feed the middle creating lots of goal scoring opportunities.

Similarity 8 – Both never let complacency set in squad and kept players hungry…

Alex Ferguson said “The important part of being a successful team is to avoid complacency. It is a disease that has to be guarded against. If we were winning at half-time, that was brought up — avoid it, it is a disease. If you lose a goal, you lose the game — keep your foot on the pedal. I had to remember that I was manager of Manchester United, not their father and I had to go and tell them their time had come. Some people might say it is ruthless but it is about loyalty to the club. I am their manager, employed by them, and it is up to me to make sure Manchester United remains the best team. I would make sure I did it in the best way and that they were comfortable with what the position was.”

Jurgen Klopp said “Do not think too much about it, that will help. We are here [at Melwood] four or five hours a day, sometimes longer, never less. They still have a few more hours in the day to be influenced by people around them. If somebody is a character and wants to celebrate position one in November then he will not play in December anymore because I see it pretty quick. But these things usually don’t happen. The players are here in this situation because their character is really good. It is a long way to get here. It is not like they are surprised about success whether it is individual or as a team. They had successes of being the best player at Southampton, Schalke or other teams. This is success but if you then celebrate this and don’t be professional anymore then you have a problem.”

Similarity 9 – Both have chemistry with everyone in the squad like no-one else , not even Pep Guardiola..

Jose Mourinho recently spoke of young players being brats drawing comparisons of players from ten, twenty years ago to now. He spoke of Frank Lampard at 23 having great maturity and being a man unlike people of his age now. However, he did admit that he must change and adapt otherwise he as a manager and leader will be left behind. They are not “brats” , they are just a different generation.

Amongst everything including tactics, stamina, player quality if there is one thing that plays the most important role in a game of 11 players on the pitch and 3 more substitutes out of a squad of 20+ players, it is man management skills. 

Alex Ferguson once stopped a training session to make his players watch a flock of geese fly overhead, asking them to note the geese’s perfect harmony and formation.

Alex Ferguson said ” For a player – and for any human being – there is nothing better than hearing ‘well done’. Those are the two best words ever invented in sports. You don’t need to use superlatives.”

Wayne Rooney said “”Alex Ferguson’s man-management without a doubt was his biggest strength. He knew how to speak to players, how to get a reaction. So many times at half-time I had played well and others in the dressing room hadn’t but he’d come for me. He knew there’d be a shouting match but it’d get a reaction from me. If he did it to another player, for example Nani – he knew he’d lose the player but he just knew the right thing to do. He’d tell me to stop dribbling, aiming it at Nani! He’s the only manager that could leave someone out and make them feel good about it. He was incredible. He knew how to get a reaction.”

Jurgen Klopp is a master of man management – the ability to get the most of each individual in his team. This comes down to knowing how the individuals in your team will respond to you as a manager. There’s a time to shout, a time to sympathise, a time to encourage and a time to demand more. Each of these are different man (or employee) management tactics that you need to have in your arsenal. It is finding the balance between these tactics and choosing the moment to deploy each tactic that will enable you to get the most out of your team.

Trent Alexander-Arnold said “He obviously wants the best from everyone in his team and I like his honesty. He’s always straight with you and that’s good because you know what he’s saying is the truth, so you really listen to it and apply it to yourself. I think the way he goes about it is perfect. He knows when to be harsh with someone and when to put his arm around someone and help them along in tough times. I’ve experienced that a few times and it’s helped me to keep on performing.”

Similarity 10 – Ability to win at the death…

Scoring last-ditch winners was a quality associated with Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering Manchester United sides of the 1990s. There was a fear factor associated with Alex Ferguson’s title-winning Manchester United teams. That one key aspect of Alex Ferguson’s success has crept into the current Liverpool side.

Liverpool’s knack of nabbing late goals under Jurgen Klopp looks so similar to the Manchester United team of 90’s. You could see opponents visibly cracking when United pushed for late winners in what became known as ‘Fergie Time’, and that quality is now in evidence as Liverpool aim to end their long wait for a Premier League title.Liverpool team have dug out so many victories in games when they have not been at their best this season.

By Premier League Museum Admin

English Premier League fan since 1992. Travel enthusiast, sports buff and blog writer with deep interest in watching sports - English premier league, American Football, Basketball, Tennis, Cricket.. you name it.. Firm believer in giving back to the community which gives you happiness and identity. My inspiration - “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

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