This week, England’s fiercest rivals will clash in a battle that never fails to be the highlight of the season.
When Jurgen Klopp first took charge at Liverpool just over a year ago, I reckoned he would soon be the new Jose Mourinho, given the passion, charisma, wit and reputation in managing fiery teams they both have.
What better time to revisit that hypothesis than now as Klopp has just passed the one-year mark of his reign and the two new-age managers meeting this week for the first time since Mourinho’s appointment as the Manchester United boss.
When Klopp was asked to describe himself at his first press conference at Anfield last year, he said: “I am the normal one.” That was a distinct reference to Mourinho introducing himself as “the special one” when joining Chelsea over 11 years ago.
A familiar face in the EPL, Mourinho replaced Louis van Gaal at Manchester United to mixed reactions from fans.
To the disappointment of hopefuls, he has not quite made a dream impact with the Red Devils.
While there are definitely visible bursts of energy and creativity compared to Van Gaal’s sleep-inducing team, there were times when United’s performance were dull, such as in their defeat to Watford. That being said, it is only fair to cut Mourinho some slack as it is no easy task to turn a team around.
Klopp would know, as he continues his progress in rebuilding the team to one he can call his own. Things have been picking up and looking fairly good since he arrived, particularly since the start of this season. The football the Reds have been playing has been delightful to watch.
Klopp and Mourinho are both very animated on the sidelines as well as at press conferences.
Charismatic is the word to describe the duo but their individual approaches towards the game and their players are different.
Klopp can often be seen celebrating with the players as if he was part of the goal buildup. The players race towards him after a goal and pile up on each other in a truly joyous moment. The German also rarely criticises his players when speaking to the media.
The United manager on the other hand, has been quite vocal about the team’s weak performances, outrightly naming and shaming the individuals he thought were responsible for a collective poor show.
This old-school hairdryer treatment may have worked in the Fergie era, but Klopp chooses to deal with millennials in the way they seem to prefer – positive affirmations and big bear hugs which have become a post-match ritual for him.
Such is his warmth, that sometimes even the opponents get a hug and pat on the back.
But amidst all that camarederie, Klopp still makes it known that he is boss and calls the shots when he needs to, as he did with Mamadou Sakho’s disciplinary issues. The French lad has yet to redeem himself.
On to the squad the managers have put together.
Mourinho’s big buys – Zlatan Ibramovich and Paul Pogba – have been promising, the former more than the latter, but Pogba does seem to be picking up the pace and can prove to be a threat to the Reds’ defence on Monday.
Wayne Rooney, who has always been ever ready to release his wrath on Liverpool, has become a pain to watch for United fans. And I agree.
His presence on the pitch has gone from formidable to disruptive, slowing down the slick passes of the younger, rising stars.
But I do hope to see him in the line up. Maybe the heat of the rivalry will reignite his heydays or maybe I’m just hoping for a weaker opponent.
At Anfield, there are concerns with the home team’s little magician Philippe Coutinho, who returns after travelling more than 40,000 miles to star in Brazil’s wins in the World Cup qualifiers. Thankfully, he is injury-free.
Another hopeful, Roberto Firmino, will be jetlagged from the travels too, but I reckon either one if not both the Brazilians will get on the scoresheet with the third goal coming from either Sadio Mane or Daniel Sturridge who are eager to prove themselves.
Adam Lallana and Gini Wijnaldum are overcoming injuries, while Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne have resumed training after a brief recovery.
Those concerns aside, I still believe the Anfield atmosphere will work its magic and Liverpool will collectively trump the Red Devils to keep the momentum going.
So, has Klopp surpassed the Mourinho benchmark?
I would say that Klopp is well on his way to setting his own standards while Mourinho's glory days are at its tail end.
Sorry, United, but it is starting to seem like Chelsea got the better part of this man.
Banter aside, this match is not the be-all and end-all of a Who Is The Best Manager contest but is set to be one of the many rivalry fixtures to remember in the decorated careers of two notable managers.
Needless to say, on Monday night, the cameras will be zooming in on the sidelines as much as the pitch. Here’s to another memorable clash and hopefully it is for the right reasons this time – and by right, I mean a Liverpool win.