Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp scooped the LMA Manager of the Year honour earlier this week, with Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson personally handing him the award
Sir Alex Ferguson quite rightly has few regrets when it comes to his legendary 26-year stint as Manchester United manager.
Widely regarded as the greatest coach of all time, Ferguson won every honour available to him during his time at Old Trafford, including an astonishing 13 Premier League titles. But the feat he perhaps took most delight from was ‘knocking Liverpool off their perch.’
Under Ferguson, United first reeled in and then overtook their north west rivals’ 18 league titles, with the Scot lifting the 20th in his final season in charge. But since his retirement in 2013, while the Red Devils have scrambled for a new boss, Liverpool have found their own Fergie.
And Ferguson admits that Jurgen Klopp ending up on Merseyside can be attributed to him in a small way. Klopp openly admits the ex-United boss is one of his idols and recalls a conversation he held with him more than a decade ago.
“He is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in world football,” Klopp previously explained. “He is a fantastic person. I met him a couple of times. My English is now good enough to understand him. He is a really nice person. I respect him a lot. Obviously he thinks I’m not completely blind as a manager so that’s good.”
More than ‘not thinking he’s blind’, Ferguson knew all along about the German’s potential as a top-tier coach and was given the chance to succeed him at The Theatre of the Dreams. “We spoke not a lot but, for me, it was a lot. It was a big honour, the whole talk, to be honest. But I could not leave Dortmund,” Klopp revealed in 2016.
“You are in April and you are in the middle of the planning for next season. You have this player and this player who are coming but then you are not there anymore? That doesn’t work. Not in my life.
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“I didn’t hear about a real offer (from United) but, if there was, I could not have done it. I first had to finish the job with Dortmund and then think about other things.”
After not landing at Old Trafford, the worst possible scenario played out for Ferguson, with Klopp rocking up at Anfield in 2016. And just months into his reign on Merseyside, there were few doubts over just how impactful could be.
Ferguson admitted in the early days of Klopp at Liverpool: “I’m worried about him because the one thing United don’t want is Liverpool to get above us. He’s going to make a difference at that club with his personality, drive and knowledge.”
He also let Jamie Carragher aware of his concerns, with the iconic Liverpool defender reciting an encounter after a charity match in 2017 in which Ferguson confidently predicted Liverpool have “got a manager” in the German.
Carragher said: “Jurgen Klopp had been at the club about a month and he came to me and said, ‘you’ve got a manager’. I went, ‘oh yeah, good, Jurgen Klopp’s made a decent start’, and he went, ‘no, no, I’m worried’.”
But even Ferguson would have baulked at just how far he has taken Liverpool above their old rivals. The 2021/22 season saw the Reds finish a distant 34 points ahead of United, not accounting for their remarkable cup record which has seen them win the EFL Cup and FA Cup already, with the Champions League final to come.
It was perhaps no surprise then that despite missing out on the title to Manchester City on the final day, Klopp was still voted as the LMA Manager of the Year. And his old mentor was on hand to personally give him the Sir Alex Ferguson trophy.
And along with the award, Ferguson joked about how that chat in Nyon had backfired so spectacularly: “This is agony, absolute agony! I told him 12 years ago to go to a club with history. I should have told him to go to Scunthorpe United.”