Jürgen Klopp has described Manchester United’s fixture schedule as “a crime” and accused the Premier League of reneging on a promise that teams would not suffer as a consequence of the Old Trafford protests against the Glazer family.
The Liverpool manager backed Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s decision to make 10 changes for United’s 2-1 defeat by Leicester on Tuesday, despite the damage done to his side’s prospects of qualifying for next season’s Champions League. Klopp admitted he would have done the same if forced to play three matches in five days and that Liverpool will have only themselves to blame should they fail to finish in the top four.
But he insists Liverpool’s and West Ham’s Champions League prospects have been hindered by the schedule imposed on United by the Premier League. Three games in five days was never discussed, Klopp claimed, when the decision was taken to postpone Liverpool’s game at Old Trafford on 2 May after a pitch invasion by United fans protesting against the club’s owners.
“It was the lineup I expected,” Klopp said of United’s selection against Leicester. “Not exactly the lineup but I knew he had to make these changes. With all the things that happened and the protests at Manchester that led to that situation, to play Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday is a crime. That is not the fault of Ole Gunnar Solskjær and the players. My question to myself was: ‘Would I have done the same?’ Yes. You have to. We are late in the season, United went to the Europa League final and that means an awful lot of games and now you get Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday. That’s not possible.
“But the weekend after is a weekend off for United. I am not the guy doing the schedule but when we thought about how it could work out on the day it got cancelled, there was no Tuesday-Thursday game in it. The explanation from the Premier League was that no other team should suffer because of what happened in Manchester and that didn’t work out pretty well – a little bit for West Ham and a little bit for Liverpool.
“But if we don’t qualify for the Champions League it is not the fault of Ole Gunnar Solskjær and his team selection or the Premier League, it is our fault. In this specific case I think it could have been done differently. But we get more and more used to things rarely going in your favour or direction. It is just accepted as how it is.”
Klopp confirmed Ozan Kabak would not be available for the rearranged game at Old Trafford on Thursday, leaving Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams as his only fit central defenders once more. The manager said Jordan Henderson would not play again this season. There was better news for England, however, as the midfielder should be fully rested and fit in time for the European Championship finals.
The Liverpool manager, who said Virgil van Dijk’s decision not to captain the Netherlands at the Euros was the only course of action available, said: “Hendo doesn’t play and doesn’t train normally with us yet so that is a decision between Gareth and Hendo but I think there is a chance for sure. Unfortunately not for us but for England.
“It will probably be around the last week when he will have the chance to train with us but he will have been out too long to play for us. That means Hendo will be rested and has a proper pre-season for the Euros if everything works to plan. He is not out of that.”
Meanwhile, Klopp has claimed Liverpool will not spend heavily this summer regardless of whether they secure Champions League revenue for a fifth consecutive year or not. He believes the pandemic will continue to have an impact on the transfer market for all but a select few clubs.
When asked how a top-four finish would influence Liverpool’s business, Klopp replied: “Not a lot will happen anyway. We cannot speak for years and years about our structure; it is how it always is. The business depends on what happens – if someone wants to leave, if we sell. That’s why you can never really plan early.
“Not playing Champions League doesn’t help obviously but it is not our biggest problem because the market will be really strange. I hear a lot about big money moves – is Kylian Mbappé going or not, [Erling] Haaland, [Jadon] Sancho – I don’t see that happening because the football world is still not in the same place it was before. Getting the injured players back makes us already better. These are our first ‘transfers’.”