Ralf Rangnick sent a pointed message to the Manchester United board regarding their search for a new manager as he insisted the success of Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp has been no coincidence.
United travel to Anfield on Tuesday trailing the Reds by 19 points in the Premier League, with Liverpool once again challenging for the title while the Red Devils appear in danger of missing out on the top four altogether.
This is the third time since Klopp's late-2015 arrival that Liverpool have battled for the title, having narrowly missed out – but won the Champions League – in 2018-19 and then ended their 30-year wait for a league championship in 2019-20.
In 2021-22 they could yet win an unprecedented quadruple: the EFL Cup trophy is already theirs, they are into the FA Cup final and Champions League semis, and Manchester City have just a one-point lead over them in the top flight.
Rangnick, considered something of a mentor to Klopp earlier in his career, was hired as United's interim manager in November last year following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the German's reputation of establishing new processes and tactical setups at other clubs seemingly marking him out as a someone who could lay the groundwork for a rebuild before moving into a consultancy role.
His period in charge of the team cannot yet be considered a success given their largely disappointing form, but ahead of Tuesday's trip to Anfield, Rangnick was given another opportunity to outline what he thinks can bring success, and Liverpool remain a clear example after allowing Klopp time to establish himself and his ideas.
Asked if the relationship between Klopp and Liverpool was a "template" to follow, Rangnick told reporters: "The same happened at other clubs, like when he was at Borussia Dortmund or when he started his coaching career with Mainz.
"He developed all those clubs and developed those teams – not just the team, the whole club – to a different level, and this is what management is all about.
"He's no doubt one of the best, if not the best coach, not only now but in the past couple years. If this is a role model, I don't know, but it's definitely again no coincidence what's happened there in the last six years.
"In his first year when he came there after eight or nine games I think, they finished eighth at the end with a point average of 1.6, and thereafter they just made the necessary adaptations.
"They brought in the right players, got rid of the right players, they just built. They really built a squad and that's why they are where they are."
Ralf: "We still know that if we raise our level, if we play a top performance, we have a chance to get three points [at Liverpool] and this will be our ambition and our goal for tomorrow." #MUFC | #LIVMUN— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 18, 2022
The links between Rangnick and Klopp are plentiful, with another obvious one being the number of players in the current Liverpool squad who have previously played for clubs where the former once held significant influence.
Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane, Takumi Minamino and Naby Keita all played for or signed from Red Bull-owned clubs; Roberto Firmino joined from Hoffenheim; and Joel Matip played under Rangnick at Schalke.
In Rangnick's eyes, Klopp's tendency to go for such players is evidence of their similar tactical preferences, but beyond that it also suggests a recruitment strategy that matches up with the manager's style, something United have often been criticised for routinely getting wrong over the past decade.
"I didn't say how much influence I had on those players, but it's pretty obvious that a big club like Liverpool, one of the best in Europe for the last few years, that they have six former players of us – either Schalke, Hoffenheim, Salzburg or [RB] Leipzig," he continued.
"It's probably the highest number of players that nobody knew at the time we signed them, or gave them their debuts.
"This obviously has something to do with a similar idea of football. Jurgen and I have known each other for a long time, I know how he wants to play and having six players from former clubs of mine is obviously not a coincidence."