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    OPINION: Why Klopp means mixed feelings for Man United fans

    by Dominic Booth

    As a lifelong Manchester United fan, I admit enduring mixed feelings upon Jürgen Klopp’s appointment as manager of Liverpool FC. In fact, with Klopp’s arrival, I will go as far as denouncing a section of my support for United. The passion with which I once goaded ‘Scousers’ and City fans has been replaced by apathy, partly due to the unsatisfactory events playing out on and off the pitch at Old Trafford, but partly because I now enjoy football in a different way.

    Watching Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund team mainly during the 2012/13 season as they pressed and pushed and pulled their way to the Champions League final was enjoyable, eye-opening. Klopp was rising to the summit of the European game with a bargain-bought, homegrown, hard-schooled, well-oiled football machine. To watch their brand of football, burgeoning rather than beautiful, was refreshing. It was almost purer for the fact they didn't win, sunk by Arjen Robben and the Bayern Munich behemoth and since overtaken again atop the Bundesliga.

    But perhaps, as a child of the Ferguson era, I have been force fed success to the point of regurgitation. The sickly sweet red success I gorged on as a child has been replaced by an admiration for managers who theorise and stay true to their principles. United’s bullying desire for trophies and ‘commercial dominance’ is so distasteful. It is something I simply cannot stomach.

    Klopp’s interpretation of the game appears far more palatable. If 110 per cent was possible, he would demand his players put in 120. His ‘heavy-metal’ football requires his players to try harder – it’s a very simple blueprint. Not once during his first press conference at Anfield did he talk about ‘needing’ to win trophies, or the pressures of selling prawn sandwiches, building a new stadium, or appeal to a new audience in South East Asia thanks to a swell of commercial partners. None of it. 

    Ed Woodward failed to lure Klopp from Dortmund to United in the summer of 2014. You suspect their philosophies were not exactly a perfect match.

    Of course, Manchester United once had a manager who was obsessed with winning trophies. It was all that kept Sir Alex Ferguson going. Yet the panache with which his teams played was undervalued, sometimes unseen. We assumed that attractive football was an automatic byproduct of success. United were simply better, but beautiful too (with the occasional gritty away performance at Stoke or Galatasaray, or Barcelona).

    Yet United have replaced Ferguson’s all-out-attack mindset with a ridiculous manager who plays ridiculous football and a ridiculous executive vice chairman who cares more for Adidas kit deals and overflowing hospitality suites. No discernible ‘philosophy’ has emerged under Louis Van Gaal and Ed Woodward. The Dutchman repeats the word so often you cannot help but think the Louis doth protest too much. 

    United have also pursued a sickening spending spree like no other, throwing into ridicule the moral high ground on which Ferguson stood when he staved off competition from cash-splashing Manchester City and Chelsea during the latter years of his regime. Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falco, both unsuited to life in Salford, have both passed through without a care for the club.

    The Scot refused to buy success. He employed Ryan Giggs on the left wing for 20 years, a spindly, speedy winger homegrown by United’s academy. Paul Scholes anchored the midfield, an unspeaking Mancunian midfield magician, under appreciated by his country for a decade. Usually partnering him in midfield would be Roy Keane, the rock-hard Irishman, purchased for a paltry £3.75million. David Beckham, who cost nothing, plied a consistent trade on the right wing, Gareth Neville, Bury-born honest defender, backed him up. Phil Neville and Nicky Butt, local lads, featured regularly.

    Which brings me back to Klopp. In an era where Manchester City rotate their manager more often than middle class homeowners rotate rugs on their living room floor, where Chelsea lash money on flops like Fernando Torres and Andriy Shevchenko, sell the genius of Kevin De Bruyne for a pittance and then garner praise for ‘shrewd transfer policy’, one thing is certain – football has gone mad. And it is the sanity of Klopp, more in the Ferguson (and Wenger) mould than any top six manager since him, that will save it.

    I do not support Van Gaal, or Woodward, because I believe – and call me snobbish, disloyal or fickle if you like – they have no peg to hang their hats, no mark in the turf to call their own.They lumber from one multi-million pound deal to the next, one way of playing to another. They are unprincipled.

    Lump it long, lump cash on Di Maria, pass it short, buy them expensive, buy them young – none of it has made any sense. Perversely, I didn’t much mind when David Moyes, one of football’s most principled men, preferred to assess in depth the likes of Thiago Alacantra, Cesc Fabregas and Ander Herrera, before agreeing to lavish millions for their services.

    Ferguson spent money of course, and so has Klopp, but the principles of their football, their determination not to cede to the worsening malaise of commercialism is surely worth admiring. They have different outlooks in life and in football, but they share the passion that makes the game beautiful.

    And even if Klopp jacks it all in after four months, you can guarantee he won’t be lumping it to Benteke, or shouting ‘give it to Philipe lads’. Moreover, you won’t catch him asking the chairman for more funds to spend on that Venezuelan striker, or for less money, so the club can afford their next world tour.

    No true Manchester United fan can support Liverpool – it’s against the law. Passion and support are two ideals of the game that will not dwindle, no matter how much football theory pricks my interest. But when Jurgen Klopp sends out his troops against Tottenham next week, I will be watching. Many who know me claim it is my career ambition to be a football journalist that manifests the more neutral perspective with which now I view the game. Maybe they’re right. But maybe it’s not wrong to admire your rivals when they’re led by Jürgen Klopp.
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    Item Reviewed: OPINION: Why Klopp means mixed feelings for Man United fans Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Dominic Booth
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