Liverpool win over Manchester United leaves rivals worlds apart
“And now you’re gonna believe us, we’re gonna win the league.”
The roar from the Kop that followed Mohamed Salah’s game-clinching goal against Manchester United could well be the defining moment of this Premier League season.
It was a goal that put Liverpool 2-0 up against their fierce rivals and meant that they would be extending their lead at the top of the Premier League table to 16 points, and with a game in hand. Liverpool’s fans responded by declaring what many of us have known for weeks, that the club’s 30-year wait for a Premier League title is finally coming to an end.
It is a message from the Anfield crowd that in previous seasons has been sung prematurely, but now feels like a statement of fact. Liverpool’s lead is insurmountable. Jurgen Klopp’s team is too strong, too consistent, and would have to revert to a level of form that they have not shown in over two years to open the door again to the chasing pack. It is only a matter of time, and even the fans can now express that attitude.
Not that you’ll hear Klopp or his players say the same. Internally, the mantra throughout the season has been that Liverpool’s focus is only on their next game, and not on their final destination. It’s such a benign statement, and one that is often overused throughout the league, but with Liverpool you believe it. For a club that has won a record 21 of its 22 Premier League games this season, is helps explain Liverpool’s remarkable consistency.
That Liverpool’s opponents on Sunday were Manchester United added extra significance to the moment.
After all, for decades, the two clubs have existed in a strange dimension where seemingly only one can dominate English football at a time. Liverpool ruled the 1970s and 80s, before Alex Ferguson arrived and famously knocked Liverpool “off their f—ing perch” in the 1990s and into the start of the new millennium. But since Sir Alex retired and Klopp took charge at Anfield in 2015 the clubs have once again been travelling in different directions.
The gap between the two teams in this season’s Premier League is an astonishing 30 points, and although United battled reasonably well during Sunday’s game, Liverpool were rampant at times and could have racked up four or five goals if they had taken their chances.
But crucially the biggest gap between the teams is off the field, where Liverpool have exceeded in recent years, and United have fallen behind.
Liverpool have become world leaders in everything that they do. They appointed the best available coach in world football when they hired Klopp in 2015, while their approach to player recruitment, coaching and development, as well as fitness and conditioning is elite in every sense. They have progressed as a club and a football team every season under Klopp, to the point that they are now the hottest club in world football.
United, meanwhile, have lurched between four different managers, all with contrasting styles and reputations, since Sir Alex retired in 2013. Their failures in the transfer market far outnumber their successes, and the club cannot point to any of their top-level players with the exception of Marcus Rashford and say that they have improved in recent seasons. There are also huge questions facing the club over Paul Pogba’s injury record this season, which have been escalated following the apparent mismanagement of Rashford’s lingering ankle and back injuries.
And that is without even mentioning the most pertinent issue, and the one that is easiest to fix, which is the manager. It is beyond clear that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should not be in charge of the rebuild that is facing United. He lacks everything that is required to be a manager of one of the biggest teams in the world, and the sooner United cut their losses, the better.
The club seem in no hurry to do that, however, despite the mounting evidence. Arguably the club’s biggest problem is the man in charge of making that decision, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, is just as unsuitable to be in a position of such responsibility. The club this month are in desperate need for quality attackers and midfielders to bolster what is an embarrassingly weak squad, and again Woodward has shown nothing to suggest that he is the man to carry out that task.
Sunday’s game left no illusions as to where the power lies in this famous fixture. Liverpool are on top of the world, while United face a long journey back.