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Steve McClaren was axed by Wolfsburg after loss to Jurgen Klopp: Will history repeat itself?

Steve McClaren and Jurgen Klopp are ready to meet again when Newcastle host Liverpool

The last time that Steve McClaren faced Jurgen Klopp, the Englishman lost his job within a matter of days. With McClaren under pressure once more at Newcastle, could history repeat itself? Adam Bate looks back to that meeting between Wolfsburg and Dortmund in 2011…

McClaren not panicking
McClaren not panicking

Steve McClaren has called on Mike Ashley and the Newcastle board to trust him.

Almost five years on and Jurgen Klopp is among the most celebrated managers in football. However, his reputation was still being forged back in January 2011 when he took his in-form Dortmund side to Wolfsburg to take on Steve McClaren's men.

Image: Klopp came out on top in both of his Bundesliga meetings with McClaren

It was McClaren who'd won a league title; McClaren who had taken a team to a European final; and McClaren with the experience of international management. There was little reason for Wolfsburg to have an inferiority complex either given that they'd been Bundesliga champions in 2009.

But it was Klopp's team on the up that day and it showed. Dortmund won 3-0 to continue their march towards an unlikely title triumph. Wolfsburg's patience with McClaren ran out the following week. He was sacked after only 24 games in charge.

Mats Hummels celebrates making it 3-0 in Borussia Dortmund's Bundesliga win over Wolfsburg in January 2011
Image: Mats Hummels scored the third goal for Dortmund in their win over Wolfsburg

Speaking to McClaren some time after this stint at Wolfsburg, he remained adamant that he could have turn things around. "In Germany, they wanted me from day one to speak German," he told Sky Sports. "So that was interesting and very difficult.

"They wanted me to do team-talks in German and press in German so I said that would take me over six months to adapt to. Those first six months were very tough. But we came back after the winter break and I felt it was a turning point in terms of adapting to German culture and the league."

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It's easy to understand his frustration. The three-week break appeared to have been productive when Wolfsburg returned to draw 1-1 with Bayern Munich. Experienced defender Arne Friedrich praised the team's "strong fighting spirit" that day and they followed up with a win over Mainz.

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Unfortunately, the scorer of the late winner in that game, Simon Kjaer, succumbed to an ankle injury and any fledgling optimism was soon extinguished when Klopp's men came to town. McClaren's Wolfsburg had no answer to the cutting counter-attacks of that Dortmund side.

Nuri Sahin celebrates after scoring for Borussia Dortmund at Wolfsburg in January 2011
Image: Nuri Sahin put Dortmund two up against Wolfsburg in the first half

The issues continued when Sascha Riether suffered a medial ligament injury midway through the first half but even by that point the gulf between the sides was obvious. Lucas Barrios scored within two minutes and Nuri Sahin made it two when an attempted clearance ricocheted off him.

"It seemed that the Wolves did not know what was happening to them," reported Kicker. McClaren withdrew Mario Mandzukic for a defender at half-time and substituted strike-partner Grafite soon after. It didn't stop Mats Hummels making it 3-0 with a routine finish from another right-wing cross.

It was an outstanding performance. We played really, really well. We play good football, which is now clear to everyone.
Jurgen Klopp

For Dortmund, it was a record tenth away win of the season and added to the growing sense that the team was the real deal. "It was an outstanding performance," said Klopp. "We played really, really well. We play good football, which is now clear to everyone."

What was equally clear was that Wolfsburg still had problems, and with just days to go before the January transfer window closed, McClaren's sense of urgency was apparent. "We need to strengthen our squad in the next two days," he said. "It is not big enough and doesn't have enough quality."

Nuri Sahin celebrates after scoring for Borussia Dortmund at Wolfsburg in January 2011
Image: Nuri Sahin put Dortmund two up against Wolfsburg in the first half

Ultimately, Wolfsburg signed six players in that window, reinvesting the money from the sale of Edin Dzeko, with Germany international striker Patrick Helmes joining on deadline day. But even that contrived to make McClaren look foolish.

The manager named Helmes as the club's penalty taker and Wolfsburg promptly got one the very next weekend against Hannover. It was a late chance to equalise but Diego took it instead - studiously ignoring the screams of McClaren from the touchline - and, naturally, missed.

Wolfsburg players look deflated during their 3-0 Bundesliga defeat to Borussia Dortmund in January 2011
Image: Wolfsburg were left deflated by Dortmund and McClaren was soon sacked

"The thing about Diego, that will be dealt with privately," said McClaren afterwards. As it was, Wolfsburg's general manager Dieter Hoeness dealt with it himself by sacking McClaren. Klopp, meanwhile, went on to win the Bundesliga title.

On Sunday, the two men are set for a touchline reunion. Klopp enjoying the feel-good factor at Liverpool and McClaren enduring a dismal start at Newcastle. The latter will know that a repeat of the events of January 2011 could well bring with it all-too-familiar consequences.

Newcastle v Liverpool is live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 3.30pm on Sunday

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