Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes his side’s efforts were duly rewarded with a place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League after coming through on top in their last-16 tie with Manchester United.
Klopp lauded the Reds’ focus throughout Thursday’s decisive leg against an ‘intensive’ United, singling out quick-thinking Philippe Coutinho for masterminding Liverpool’s response shortly before half-time after going a goal down after 32 minutes.
The 1-1 draw at Old Trafford means Liverpool progress 3-1 on aggregate, and potentially sets up a clash with Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund following their 5-1 aggregate trouncing of Tottenham Hotspur.
But the German thinks there are no ‘easy games’ left at this stage of the competition, opting to prepare his side accordingly regardless of who they face next.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
“What can I say, in my dreams I win all my games but this was a draw, but we are through so that is good. It was good, it was intensive, and we deserved the next round, I think there’s no doubt about this. That feels really good, because it was really hard work again. In the future — not against Man United maybe because that will be at our most intensive but we have to be a little bit more clear.
“You see all these counter-attacks in the second half when we had five players in the counter-attack and played the last pass with really no chance to get the pass and then the players have to run back. I don’t know how many meters we had to run tonight because of bad passing in the last moment, so that’s not too smart. But the rest was really, really good. An intensive fight against a big opponent? Cool!
“They got a penalty — I think it was a penalty — and Phil[ippe Coutinho] had a genius moment. Wonderful! I loved the two minutes before half-time because we reacted twice quicker than our opponent.
“There was a discussion about the free-kick then Hendo [Jordan Henderson] played the ball and it was something like a counter-attack where we missed the last pass like we did in the second half, even a little bit more of, and had to run back and get it again. But again we were quicker in mind and Phil used the situation so that was a brilliant moment. And of course, it decided the game tonight.
“Before the game it was clear that Man United could score a goal, of course, and if you stay clear in mind and nothing happens then that’s absolutely no problem as we always have the advantage until 3-0. So that’s how it is. It’s not easy to say to a player we can score three goals but if we make one then we are through, that’s not too much sense but it’s the truth. I was cool, so I don’t think it was the biggest difference what i said at half-time.
“[Borussia] Dortmund, of course not. Why would I want the strongest team in the tournament in the next round? I’m not so silly. But if we have to go there, we will try to win. I’ve only seen some of the other results but I’m pretty sure that there are no easy games anymore. It’s not too important, only we have to be prepared and hopefully we are.
“You see, it’s the movement with the team, the timing. A lot of things are better. We are far away from easy but it’s better and the most important thing is that the players on the bench are 100 percent fit, 100 percent fit. I now have really difficult decisions to make and that’s the best thing a manager can do.”