United draw is just what we wanted, insists Reds boss
Published 27/02/2016 | 02:30
Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool against Manchester United is the tie he most wanted following a European draw to catch the imagination of the football world.
Never before have the arch rivals met in Uefa competition, although their matching in the last 16 of the Europa League is not the first time they have been paired in Europe.
In the 2002 Champions League, when the route from the quarterfinals to the final was scheduled in the same draw, Liverpool and United were scheduled to meet in the last four.
United kept their side of the bargain by defeating Deportivo La Coruna in the quarter-final, but Liverpool - then under manager Gerard Houllier - lost to Bayer Leverkusen.
The chance for a potentially historic meeting with the most significant of consequences was missed, but European competition will add a different flavour to one of the most hostile footballing rivalries on the planet.
Louis van Gaal has a 100 per cent winning record against Liverpool since taking over as manager at Old Trafford, and it is the most recent United win at Anfield that has prompted Klopp to claim he wanted to make amends.
"It's great. We deserve these," said Klopp. "It is not easy but you can ask my staff and me who we want and they say we want United. We need to clear up something. We had a good game and lost 1-0 to them, which is not what we deserved.
"Life has given us a chance to make it better and that is what we have to do and will try to do. In this round there was no easy game. Manchester United is cool."
Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet said there was a buzz around his club's training ground at Melwood when the draw was made.
"It's one to look forward to. Obviously being in Europe you want a European team but it's Man United, it's a derby and it's two big ones," said the Belgian.
Liverpool will play their home leg at Anfield on March 10, with the Old Trafford return a week later.
Tottenham Hotspur were handed a tough assignment against Borussia Dortmund in the last 16, Mauricio Pochettino's side at home in the second leg.
Another eye-catching tie pitched Gary Neville's Valencia against fellow La Liga side Athletic Bilbao.
Holders Sevilla, who have won the trophy for the last two years, will face Basel. The final will be held at Basel's St Jakob-Park.
Two winners of the competition clash as Shakhtar Donetsk come up against Anderlecht while Villarreal will meet Bayer Leverkusen and Sparta Prague face Lazio (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Round of 16 draw
Shakhtar v Anderlecht
Basel v Sevilla
Villarreal v B Leverkusen
Ath Bilbao v Valencia
Liverpool v Man Utd
Sparta Prague v Lazio
B Dortmund v Tottenham
Fenerbahce v Braga
(Ties to be played on March 10 & 17)