The two managers head into their first encounter since their time in the Bundesliga in contrasting situations. Manchester United fans are constantly berating Louis van Gaal for his possession based style, while the Anfield faithful have begun to look upon Jurgen Klopp as the saviour they have long awaited.

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The last time Dutchman Louis van Gaal and Jurgen Klopp faced off against each other, the match created a little piece of history. It was on a cold February evening in Munich, with Borussia Dortmund pulling off their first win in the city in two decades thanks to a 3-1 drubbing of the Bavarian giants on their home turf. After the match, then Bayern manager Louis van Gaal admitted that they ‘deserved to win’. Within a few weeks Van Gaal was gone and at the end of the season his opposite number on that night– the effervescent, excitable and belligerent Jurgen Klopp was beaming as he held the Bundesliga title aloft in front of the yellow wall.

It’s been five years since then, and the two managers find themselves face to face once again. But this time it isn’t in the Bundesliga with two contenders for the title, but in the hard tackling, cash laden, competitive atmosphere of the Premier League and there’s an extra element of passion thrown in the mix, as they preside over one of the most historic derby clashes in European football — Manchester United against Liverpool at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp gets his first taste of the north-west derby, after Brendan Rodgers led Liverpool to a 3-1 defeat in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in September

Pressure versus possession

The two managers have very contrasting philosophies. The often criticised Louis van Gaal swears by possession football and he stresses on having players in position, keeping possession, passing the ball and playing mechanical, well organized, controlled football. This method has helped him become one of the most successful managers in Europe, but it has often left the fans frustrated, as is the case presently with Manchester United.

The Dutchman received some welcome respite after the Red Devils last Premier League match, where they scored 3 goals in a draw with Newcastle United, although it is a telling sign that even a draw is welcomed by fans as long as it involves some attacking football. Prior to that, Manchester United had been woeful and found themselves knocked out of the Champions League and out of the top 4 in the league table, as their defence came unraveled and their attacking worries were brutally exposed.

Despite all the possession, the Red Devils are an uninspiring 9th on the goal scoring charts in the Premier League

Jurgen Klopp has not been getting the greatest of results since taking over at Anfield either, the highs of comprehensive wins over Chelsea and Manchester City have been negated by losses to West Ham and Crystal Palace. But the fans seem enchanted by the German’s demeanor and the fact that when the Reds get going they are a treat to watch. Klopp focuses on a high intensity, high pressing and fast paced style where it isn’t as much about keeping possession as it is about what his players do with the ball and when they are off the ball.

On level terms

Klopp and Van Gaal are on level terms right now in head-to-head encounters, with each having outsmarted the other twice. This could prove to be the tie-breaker in a record that they had thought was done and dusted back in Germany.

As for their clubs, if Liverpool managed to pull off a win then it could probably be one of their most significant against the Red Devils in recent history, in terms of the race to the finish. A win would take them level on points with their rivals at 34 apiece.

For Manchester United this is a must win clash, their title hopes lie in ruins and all the people associated with the club wallow in frustration — the fans, the staff, the ex-players and even the sponsors. A win against Liverpool is necessary if they want to compete for a top four finish, at the very least. Fans will be hopeful that their Captain Wayne Rooney, who was in such sublime touch against Newcastle, has rediscovered what it means to be a record breaking footballer.

As for Louis van Gaal, 5 years ago Jurgen Klopp’s team were the harbingers of his eventual exit from Bayern Munich, and he will be battling the demons of his past in this encounter as a loss against Klopp could well be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Again.

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