LIVERPOOL, England — Former Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise has told ESPN FC that he would prefer to play for Jurgen Klopp than the current version of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho.
While Liverpool are currently top of the Premier League, United visit Anfield on Sunday 16 points behind their rivals facing an uphill battle to secure a top-four spot.
Riise played for Liverpool during the height of the club’s rivalry with Chelsea when Mourinho delivered back-to-back league titles, but feels the Portuguese manager has changed for the worse.
“I think Mourinho is different now to some years ago,” Riise said, speaking to promote his new autobiography, ‘Running Man.’
“You mentioned him [talking negatively] in public about certain players. It’s something that is weird and strange. But he might have his reasons for doing it.
“I don’t think people should question Mourinho and his tactics, but it looks weird from the outside.
“I would rather play for Klopp at this time than Mourinho [because] of how they are as a manager. But I think the results speak for themselves also. Mourinho is a great manager, but I’m more on the Klopp side.
“I used to be, and still am, a big fan of Mourinho because of how he set up his team when he came to Chelsea and how they played their football.
“I have no problem admitting that I think Mourinho is brilliant, even though I played for Liverpool and Rafa [Benitez] was somebody else. I personally love football and have no problem saying certain things about other teams or coaches. Mourinho, I think, was brilliant.”
Riise played in 16 encounters between Liverpool and United during his seven-season stay at Anfield.
The Norwegian, who retired in 2016, believes the last few years has seen a power shift in what is considered to be the fiercest rivalry in English football.
“United hasn’t been at the top, top level in the last few years — certainly this year,” Riise said. “I think they came second last year. But the kind of football they play is not the same when I was used to play.
“It was always a hard game to play against them. At Old Trafford, they would run you over — attack, attack, attack. Now you see United more defensive minded. I’m sure Mourinho knows what he’s doing and, at the end, I don’t care that much about what United are doing really. I just focus on what Liverpool are doing.
“I think Liverpool is way ahead when it comes to style of play, the players they have and the passion they play with.
“I’m glad I’m a Liverpool fan, not United fan at the moment. I have a few friends who are United fans and they are really upset at the moment because not just with the team performances, but how they play football.”
Riise scored a memorable goal against United during his first season at Liverpool, having moved from Monaco for £4 million in the summer of 2001.
That November, he scored a free kick that clocked in at more than 70 miles per hour before wheeling away with his shirt over his head.
“When you hit the ball that hard, you’re aiming for the target,” Riise said. “Because I know if I hit the ball hard enough, it’s hard for the goalkeeper to react. Also, if he saves it, it’s hard to hold and there may be a rebound so the striker can score on the rebound.
“I was aiming for that side of the goal, but I can’t put the ball in a better place, to be honest.
“You cannot plan a celebration when you score that kind of goal in that kind of goal. No was planned, I just went berserk and just ran around on my knees.
“The rush, especially because of the history between Liverpool and United, it was a big one for me. It made my life a lot easier when it comes to being accepted by the fans.
“It’s always a high-tempo game, tackles flying in because of the intense rivalry, fans giving stick — but that happens every game no matter where you play.
“It’s more what happens on the pitch and it’s really intense challenges on the pitch and that’s why it’s such a great feeling to win. It had always been a tough war.”