Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp said media predictions that his team will swat aside a misfiring Manchester United on Sunday could be creating a banana skin for the Premier League leaders at Old Trafford.
Liverpool top the table with eight wins from as many games while their rivals, the record 20-times league champions, have made their worst start to a campaign in 30 years to sit 12th with nine points.
The poor form of United’s players prompted Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester City defender Danny Mills to exclude them entirely from a combined 11 ahead of the clash, but Klopp rejected such talk.
“On Sky when you made a combined lineup and had 11 Liverpool players... that’s like a joke. It’s building a banana skin, that’s what everyone wants to see,” Klopp told a news conference.
“The world at the moment is a circus, we’re in the centre. A couple of people want us to win and a couple of people want us to lose... I’m not influenced by it.”
United could be without goalkeeper David de Gea, who was injured on international duty, and midfielder Paul Pogba but Klopp suggested that his counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was playing mind games when he said the duo may not play.
“I’m 100 per cent aware of the strength of United and expect their best lineup. Four days ago Ole said there was no chance for De Gea and Pogba, today it’s a ‘maybe’ and tomorrow it’s ‘100%’... that’s how these games are played,” he added.
“With the things you (media) wrote in the last few weeks — that they don’t have any influence on the game — makes them desperate to change the situation. They’ll try 100 per cent and we’ll try to improve ours too... we’ll see who wants it more."
“We have to be emotional — as much as allowed — but also respect their strengths. This is a really good side. They are in a situation they don’t like so they want to change it. We have to ensure they start a week later.”
For all their improvement under Klopp, European champions Liverpool have not won at Old Trafford under the German, drawing three times and losing once in all competitions.
“I’ve never really struggled with confidence... history in this case isn’t really important but gives you a sign because we like to create, use the atmosphere at Anfield but Old Trafford isn’t too bad,” Klopp said.
“I’m sure they are all on their toes, ready and waiting for us. They said we are the perfect opponent now... I don’t think there are a lot of teams who would love to play against us at the moment. It looks like United are the only ones.”
Man United job isn't too big for me, says Solskjaer
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes he is the right man for the rebuilding job at Old Trafford despite overseeing the club’s worst start to a top-flight season in 30 years.
United have recorded two wins in their opening eight Premier League matches this season, slipping to 12th in the standings and two points above the relegation zone.
Solskjaer’s position could come under increased pressure if rivals and league leaders Liverpool come away with all three points from their trip to Old Trafford on Sunday.
United are four points worse than at this stage last season under Jose Mourinho, who lost his job last December, but Solskjaer has backed his players to rediscover form in the upcoming games.
“I’ve never felt it (the job) is too big for me,” Solskjaer told a news conference on Friday. “I’m confident in what we’re trying to do, the coaching and what’s happening here every single day, I’ve been so impressed."
“Michael (Carrick), Kieran (McKenna), Martyn (Pert), Richard (Hartis), the coaching, the improvement is there to see for us but it’s about results - start winning games, start scoring goals, we need to create more chances because at the back we’ve looked solid."
“But we haven’t been adventurous enough, taking enough risks. If you watch the best teams they take more risks with the ball, they make more runs in behind and that’s part of the process for the boys.”
At the club’s annual staff meeting, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward defended Solskjaer’s credentials and the club’s poor start to the campaign.
Solskjaer said the overhaul of the squad is a long-term project and will need at least two more transfer windows to build a team capable of competing for trophies.
“We’ve made some decisions that maybe in the short term would harm us but we know in the long term will benefit us and that’s part of the plan,” he added.
“The results are always the main thing, we can move forward quicker if we get results and performances. But I’m sure that we will get there.”
Solskjaer has already ruled out goalkeeper David De Gea and midfielder Paul Pogba from the Liverpool clash due to injuries, but said defenders Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw could be available.
De Gea picked up a muscle problem during Spain’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Sweden on Tuesday, but scans showed the injury was not serious.
“When I saw the game, I thought that’s him out until the next international break, because we’ve had some long-term muscle injuries, but it’s not as bad as feared,” Solskjaer said.