I rejected the chance to manage Manchester United twice and became a Liverpool FC legend
“I didn’t hear about a real offer. But, if there was, I could not have done it.
“I first had to finish the job with Dortmund and then think about other things.
“Maybe that is not smart, but that is my way.”
A decade after David Moyes’ sacking, Manchester United fans still wonder what might have been had they hired someone else instead.
There is an argument to suggest that whoever inherited the managerial role after Sir Alex Ferguson was doomed to fail, regardless of their own ability, though there are certainly a couple of compelling candidates to suggest otherwise.
Moyes was the man chosen by Ferguson to succeed him when he finally retired after 26 years in charge, though the legendary manager had also shown an interest in Jurgen Klopp.
The German coach had forged an impressive reputation for his ‘heavy metal’ football at Borussia Dortmund, which won two league titles, but he didn’t want to leave the project while it still had so much potential.
Klopp even met with Ferguson to chat about his impending exit from Old Trafford and made it clear he was not currently in a position to take such a high-profile job.
“We spoke,” Klopp said of their meeting in April 2013. “We spoke not a lot, but, for me, it was a lot. It was a big honour — the whole talk, to be honest. But I could not leave Dortmund.
“You are in April and you are in the middle of the planning for next season. You have this player and this player who are coming but then you are not there anymore? That doesn’t work. Not in my life.
“I didn’t hear about a real offer [from United] but, if there was, I could not have done it. I first had to finish the job with Dortmund and then think about other things.
“Maybe that is not smart but that is my way. It was the same at Mainz.”
Although Ferguson was not able to lure the charismatic coach to Manchester, he certainly left a huge impression on him in the process. He added: “It’s a big honour to talk to Sir Alex. For a manager, it’s nearly the best thing you can do—sit there and listen.
“Maybe he is the greatest ever—the John Lennon of football. From my side, there is a big amount of respect. What he did is not easy for another manager to do.”
Dortmund would go on to finish runners-up in the Bundesliga and Champions League that season, leaving Klopp more determined than ever to win a major trophy with the club before he left.
As Moyes set about the impossible job at Old Trafford, Klopp attempted the equally daunting task of trying to topple Bayern Munich after their historic treble a season earlier.
They would do so in the season-opening Super Cup, but once again, they would finish runners-up to Bayern in both the Bundesliga and the German Cup.
It hadn’t put United off, though. Moyes was sacked after 10 months in charge, and Klopp was quickly made a favourite for the job along with Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal, Atletico Madrid’s manager Diego Simeone, and Paris Saint-Germain boss Laurent Blanc.
United inquired about the possibility of attaining his services again, but were told Klopp was insistent on honouring his contract at Signal Iduna Park.
Even before they had parted ways with Moyes, then executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward had flown out to meet with Klopp in an effort to convince him to take over at United. It didn’t work.
“David Moyes’ short tenure at Old Trafford was coming to an end, and Klopp was United’s favourite to replace him, to bring back a sense of adventure to the Red Devils’ game,” Raphael Honigstein wrote in his biography on Jurgen Klopp called ‘Bring the Noise’.
“Woodward told Klopp that the Theatre of Dreams was ‘like an adult version of Disneyland’, a mythical place where, as the nickname suggested, the entertainment was world-class and dreams came true. Klopp wasn’t entirely convinced by that sales pitch—he found it a bit ‘unsexy’, he told a friend—but he didn’t dismiss the proposition out of hand either.”
United still hoped they could lure Klopp to Manchester, but the more he thought about it, the more he longed to end his time at Dortmund on a high.
“Man United is a great club and I feel very familiar with their wonderful fans,” he said shortly afterwards. “But my commitment to Borussia Dortmund and the people is not breakable.”
Klopp will leave Liverpool with a similar unbreakable bond this summer, and it is only natural for United supporters to wonder what might have been had he chosen Manchester over Merseyside instead.
While the post-Ferguson struggles continue to this day, Klopp will leave a Liverpool legend, even if he probably should have won more during his time at the club as well.
“I’m not in the mood to think about that [regrets]. I don’t have to remember anything now,” Klopp told reporters after announcing his shock exit. “In my ideal world, the best memories are yet to come.
“I have no regrets but a lot of special memories.”
Klopp has masterminded emphatic wins against every United manager he has faced, and those at Old Trafford will be determined to ensure he doesn’t have another to add to his list before the season is out.
The Liverpool manager’s impending exit might represent an opportunity missed, but now they can’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of their possible demise when he leaves.