Ralf Rangnick has described the evolution of Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp as “no coincidence” – because his own career has involved developing a number of their key talents.
The Manchester United interim boss, whose future beyond the end of this season appears unclear, can point to a host of Liverpool players and say he had an important role in their careers.
Rangnick, 63, is regarded as one of football’s best strategists, and during his various roles with the Red Bull group, which includes RB Leipzig and Salzburg, he helped to bring through the likes of Naby Keita, Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino.
Before that, he was coach when Hoffenheim signed Roberto Firmino from Figueirense, albeit leaving within weeks of that deal being agreed, while Rangnick coached Joel Matip at Schalke.
It is remarkable, therefore, that Rangnick has ended up in charge of Liverpool’s most fierce rivals, whom United will face at Anfield in the Premier League on Tuesday.
“They are good, they are extremely good. It’s no coincidence that they’re as good as they are,” Rangnick said of Liverpool.
“Jurgen has built that team over the last six and a half years. Six or seven of those players used to be my – or our – players.”
Klopp’s Liverpool play a similar high-tempo game to the Leipzig and Salzburg teams that Rangnick oversaw, meaning the players acquired have been a natural fit for Klopp’s Reds.
“We signed them for our clubs when nobody knew them,” said Rangnick, “and again it’s no coincidence that this is probably the club with the highest number of players from our former clubs.
“Their approach, their style of football, the way they want to play is pretty similar.”
Rangnick’s United side beat Norwich City 3-2 on Saturday in the Premier League thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick, and it vaulted them to fifth place in the table.
That treble papered over some rather major cracks, however, and Rangnick warned afterwards there would need to be a big improvement against Liverpool.
United were chaotic at times, particularly in defence, and Rangnick said: “Even the reason why the club contacted me in November was the fact we just conceded too many goals too easily.
“We reduced the number of goals conceded, but the way that we defend is still not the standard we need in order to be a top-four club.”