Liverpool are yet to match Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United side, says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Adam Lanigan
The Telegraph
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unprepared to give Liverpool the biggest of compliments - Manchester United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unprepared to give Liverpool the biggest of compliments - Manchester United

Liverpool are threatening to write a host of new records as they march towards a first league title for 30 years.

But there is little surprise to learn that Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is reserving judgement about whether they are the greatest team in Premier League history.

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Given that Solskjaer scored the winner in the 1999 Champions League final to add to United’s league and FA Cup glory in that same season, he views Sir Alex Ferguson's treble winners as the gold standard for others to match.

United would go on to add successive titles in 2000 and 2001 before Ferguson repeated the feat of three titles in a row from 2007.

So in Solskjaer’s mind, it is that relentless pursuit of winning driven by the great Scot that needs to be demonstrated by Jurgen Klopp and his players at Liverpool, although they could still equal United’s efforts of 1999 with a treble of their own this season.

“That showed as a squad we could cope with three tournaments,” reflects the current United manager on 1999.

“It was an amazing season, an amazing group. The personalities, the camaraderie. I’m sure with Liverpool, they can win all three, so I’m not going to say no or yes, but let’s see in May.

“You have to do it again and again and Sir Alex is the only one who has won it three times.

“He had an exceptional way of motivating us and getting us ready – a way of just letting trophies be trophies. Win them and move forward.”

As it stands, Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 38 league games, winning all but five of those, stretching back to a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City on 3 January 2019. If they avoid defeat in their next 12, they will break Arsenal’s record of 49 achieved across 2003/04 by Arsene Wenger's Invincibles.

If they achieve that, Manchester City’s record points tally of 100, achieved just two years ago, would also be under serious threat given Liverpool have dropped just two points out of a possible 63 on offer so far.

One thing that Solskjaer cannot help but admire, though, is how Klopp has built his team at Anfield. Given universal backing from the club’s owners and that precious commodity of time, the German has constructed a side that is the envy of Europe.

And one Solskjaer hopes he can match by doing the same 30 miles down the road.

“The spirit is there, the players are humble and they want to improve,” he says. “That is a great starting point and foundation. We know we need to sign a few but we understand that.

“We look at when Jurgen took over at Liverpool and he finished eighth in his first season, so this is our first season together.

“We want to build step by step, and layer by layer, and in the end you can just send them out without having to wait until Saturday to do the last preparations because you know what they are able to do.

“If you look at Liverpool now with (Roberto) Firmino, (Mo) Salah and (Sadio) Mane, they all understand each other when he moves there and him there, they drop and rotate. That’s where we want to get to but that takes time.”

The only points Liverpool have dropped this season came in the 1-1 draw with United at Old Trafford, since when they have reeled off 12 straight wins.

<span>Jurgen Klopp believes his side has underperformed in recent matches against Manchester United</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Jurgen Klopp believes his side has underperformed in recent matches against Manchester United Credit: Getty Images

The great mystery about Klopp’s team over the last 12 months were their sub-standard performances against United when they limped to a 0-0 draw in February against an injury-hit United before the next one in October ended a run of 17 wins on the spin.

It is a source of frustration, but Klopp’s message ahead of today’s encounter will be to play the game, and not the rivalry between England’s two biggest clubs.

“We didn’t play how well we wanted to play,” assesses Klopp of those last two meetings. “We always build it up as ‘Liverpool v United’ and you have to learn to deal with that situation.

“In the good old times, you saw it as a special fixture because everyone flew at each other and kicked each other off the pitch. I don’t want to see that. If anyone asks us for that, no chance.

“We want to win the game, not one little battle here or there. We understand being aggressive in a completely different way to our grandfathers. If we hurt someone, it’s ourselves.    

“You have to find solutions on the pitch and you have to be at your best. For that, you need a clear mindset and an outstanding atmosphere.

“How we do it at Manchester, we can think next year. Now we only need to think how we do it here and in the last game we won (3-1). It was a pretty important one for us and a decisive one for them, so let’s try to repeat that.”              

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