It’s Ok To Feel Cheated Today – We Were

I’m not going to lie, I have struggled to accept yesterday’s results. In many ways, it would have been so much better if Man City had just battered Aston Villa 5-0, given that is exactly what I expected them to do. I went into the day having zero hope that Steven Gerrard’s side would be able to get anything at the Etihad, but I just wanted us to do our job and keep Pep Guardiola’s men honest when no one else seems to be interested in doing so. That we went behind and Villa took the lead seemed to make it all even more tense than it should have been, so the turn around in fortunes felt all the more cruel because of it. Of course, titles aren’t won or lost in one game. Jürgen Klopp and his players will know where things could have gone better, from the draw with Brentford through to the failure to beat ten-man Chelsea at Anfield. I refuse to criticise these players, though; they’ve given their everything this season and can’t be expected to win every single game.

Sadly, that is what it feels like you need to do in order to win the title in the age of sports-washing football clubs. Guardiola has been handed everything he could possibly wish for during his time at City, but still complains that his achievements aren’t loved enough. As Mari Lewis pointed out on Twitter, it is difficult to tell what, exactly, he thinks that love should look like. Kevin de Bruyne won the Player Of The Season award despite Mo Salah scoring more goals and getting more assists than him. Pundits and commentators bend over backwards to talk about how brilliant City’s style of play is. Very few people in the mainstream media ever talk about the club’s financial doping as often as they should, instead all but ignoring it, perhaps because of a fear about the litigious nature of City’s legal teams. They aren’t loved any more than they are because what they’re achieving is the bare minimum for a team with their resources. If you cheat, don’t expect applause when you win.

The Moment Is Impossible To Replicate

I am of the genuine belief that City’s accomplishments during the Sheikh Mansour era will have an asterisk next to them in the record books of the future. It would not shock me to see Liverpool awarded the titles of 2013-2014, 2018-2019 and 2021-2022, for example. Yet even if that were to happen, it would feel hollow even whilst it was the right thing to do. This manager and his team deserved to celebrate another title win yesterday, not months or years after it happened but in the moment with the people in the ground. It deserves to have the Premier League trophy on the bus that will drive through Liverpool next Sunday, rather than just an updated Champions Wall long after the event. Jürgen Klopp should be spoken of in the same breath as Bob Paisley and Alex Ferguson when it comes to his title-winning achievements, not mocked for ‘only’ having one Premier League title to his name by rival fans who are hiding their own misery behind our lack of success.

Whatever happens in the future, the now feels flat. Hopefully we go and win the European Cup at the weekend, much like we did the last time Man City pipped us to the title by a point, but it does feel as though the manager will have a job on his hand to lift his players off the floor. When Mo Salah scored his goal yesterday, you could tell that the players briefly thought that they were about to win the title. That disappointment isn’t something that you can just shrug off. They should have been celebrating their third title in five years, but instead they have been robbed off that feeling by a football club that is being used to sports-wash the reputation of a murderous regime. That moment can’t be regained in the future. It is gone and will never be recovered, even if the Premier League’s investigation into Manchester City correctly finds them guilty of any number of wrongdoings. That is what makes yesterday so difficult to accept.

It Isn’t Fair

It is such a simplistic, childish thing to say, but it just isn’t fair. When Lance Armstrong’s drug cheating was discovered, other cyclists didn’t just shrug their shoulders and say ‘oh well’, they wanted him stripped of his titles. That is because there is a sense of fairness that pervades all of sport. Whilst I despised Manchester United during the 1990s for the manner in which they seemed to win every week, I did at least respect them for how they had made their money. Whilst the powers that be at Liverpool rested on their laurels, those in charge of the Red Devils moved to make the club a commercial behemoth. They redeveloped Old Trafford to make it bigger and better than Anfield, giving them a weekly profit that couldn’t be caught by ticket sales alone. This, combined with the genius of Alex Ferguson, allowed United to move clear of every other club, even when the pretenders to the throne changed between the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers.

Think about this, though: The only time that Manchester United managed to get as many points as Liverpool have done this season was when they played 42 games. Even Ferguson would have struggled to take on Manchester City because of the limitless resources that they have available to them. Yes, Liverpool could afford to buy most of the players that City have bought, but we couldn’t pay the wages that they pay – and they’re just the wages that we know about. Given the fact that we know that Roberto Mancini was paid money off the books, it isn’t out of the realms of the possible that some of City’s players have been too. With that in mind, it isn’t even possible to put a genuine figure on how much money has been invested in making the Manchester club into the relentless winning machine it has become. Most Liverpool supporters feel cheated today for the simple reason that we have been. Thankfully our season is still alive, with the biggest game of them all to come.

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