Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder insists he has nothing but admiration for the “incredibly talented” Jurgen Klopp following the public spat between the two managers earlier this season.
Wilder said the Liverpool boss was being selfish when he advocated a return of the five substitutes rule, believing it would give those with much bigger squads and resources an advantage, and later described the German as a “world-class politician”.
Klopp then responded with several jibes at Wilder in his media interviews, including pointing out that the Blades only had one point on the board at the time.
The pair will meet for the first time since that war of words in November when Liverpool travel to Bramall Lane on Sunday evening.
Ahead of the Premier League clash, Wilder insisted: “The relationship is absolutely fine.
“I’ve got nothing but admiration for Jurgen, he’s a top-class manager. That’s what happens, people talk and things get said. If I was precious about things being said I wouldn’t be doing this job.
“If I took notice of people in the media and what the majority have said through my time as a manager I don’t think I would be sat here and I think that’s the same for the manager at Liverpool.
“He’s an incredibly talented manager, he’s a winner and we all try to win. He has done that in incredible fashion. Heat of the moment, or whatever.
“If it was personal, I didn’t take it personal, and I have moved on and for me to worry about stuff like that is way down the pecking order.”
Indeed, the Blades, bottom of the table with just three league wins this campaign, head into the weekend’s round of fixtures 14 points from safety, with only 13 matches left to bridge the gap.
It has been a season of struggle for United, who finished ninth last term on their return to the Premier League, and Wilder admits there have been times when he has felt more like a counsellor than a football manager.
“These players have swum the channel to get in the position they are,” said Wilder, who has shared winning the League One title and promotion from the Championship with many of the players in his current squad over the past five years.
“I’m not going to smash them over the head. I support them. Sometimes, what they have done in such a short period of time, is overlooked a bit. We want more.
“Am I being a counsellor as much as a manager? Yes, it seems that way, because we are trying to keep spirits high and positive.
“It’s one of the hardest periods I’ve been through in my managerial career, because of my connection to this club. We just want to get through it.”
Jayden Bogle (shin) has joined the Blades’ lengthy injury list after he was injured by a tackle from Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola last weekend, becoming one of six defenders now unavailable to Wilder.
Chris Basham (hamstring) is also out having been injured at Craven Cottage, while Jack Robinson (foot), Jack Rodwell, John Egan (toe) and Lys Mousset are still out. Jack O’Connell (knee) and Sander Berge (hamstring) remain long-term absentees.
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