Jurgen Klopp said Gary Neville was wrong for enthusiastically praising Manchester United teenager Hannibal Mejbri’s feisty cameo against Liverpool in midweek as he appealed for a “legally aggressive” Merseyside derby on Sunday.
Klopp felt Mejbri crossed the line with a series of late challenges which Neville, commentating on United’s 4-0 defeat for Sky Sports, said belatedly showed fight in an otherwise limp display by the visitors.
Neville later acknowledged during coverage that the young midfielder went too far.
“He had to apologise for that. Rightly so,” said Klopp. “I understand where he is coming from. You want to see some aggression. But there is a difference between aggression and kicking players. That makes no sense.
“Aggression in football means you are ready to hurt yourself, not the other player. That is aggression in football.
“I don’t blame the kid, he came on late and the game was quick and obviously wanted to make an impression. He was a bit late here and a bit late there, all good. Aggression in football is fine but you cannot sort your own problems by hurting the opposition players. That is what I have never understood.
“I have played 325 professional football games and without aggression and physicality I would have played none. It was my only strength that I had, so I am completely fine with that, but it’s about staying respectful, that’s all. Things can happen in football, it is a high-speed game but not these kinds of things where you don’t care about the other (player).”
Earlier in his pre-match press conference ahead of this weekend’s visit of Everton to Anfield, Klopp said physicality had to be “within the rules”.
“These derbies never lacked intensity,” he said. “I love intensity in football. I love physicality in football, but just in the rulebook and just make sure that we all stick to that, don’t go over the top, these kinds of things.
“Don’t make it like in the ‘good old times’, let me say it like this, and even we suffered from these situations. I just want to have a very intense, very physical and legally-aggressive football game but not more, because we play games after the derby as well – we should not forget, all of us.”