Reports Of Liverpool’s Demise May Have Been Exaggerated

There are some people who believe that silverware is the be all and end all of football. For them, the idea of celebrating a big win during a season is folly. When Liverpool were ripping it up in the 2013-2014, 2018-2019 and 2021-2022 campaigns, they acted snootily at the notion of enjoying every moment of it, instead feeling as though it would all be for nought if, as transpired, the Reds did not win the title. If the arrival of Covid and the subsequent shutting down of the Premier League proved anything, it is that you have to enjoy what you can whilst you can because you never know what is going to be around the corner. Yesterday’s demolition of Manchester United doesn’t involve silverware. Indeed, the likelihood is that Liverpool won’t be winning anything this season. Do not think for one second that I won’t enjoy every minute of it, however. I have spent the last 12 hours or so soaking up as much content as I could and I plan to carry on doing as much for the next 12.

There is plenty to be said about Liverpool’s need to ensure that this isn’t a false dawn. Just as Manchester United won’t be looking back on events at Anfield yesterday afternoon and declaring that they mean that their season is over, neither should Jürgen Klopp and his team feel as though the win means that top four is a lock. There are 39 points still to play for as we chase down a Champions League place that would allow us to play in Europe’s elite competition once more. What we can’t do, though, is do what has often happened to Liverpool teams in the past and fail to build on the success of this scoreline. For the Reds, there are plenty of things still to achieve this season, even if a trophy is unlikely to be one of them. That conversation is for another time, however. Right now is for crowing. It is for sending memes and jokes to your United-supporting friends. It is, in many cases, for nursing hangovers. It isn’t a trophy, but that won’t stop me from being in seventh heaven.

United Believed Their Own Press

Prior to the match at Anfield, Erik ten Hag had made the fatal mistake that so many players and managers before him have made by down playing the Anfield atmosphere. It was, he said, ‘no different’ to anywhere else. United arrived on Merseyside having lost once in their previous 22 games. They had lifted the League Cup with defeat over Newcastle and there was talk of them going on their way to a quadruple, given the fact that they weren’t totally out of the title race. The manager and players turned up to Anfield believing their own hype, with the arrogance of Gary Neville and Roy Keane pre-match a good reflection of where many associated with the football club felt they were ahead of kick-off. It would be, they felt, an easy win. Videos of both Neville and Rio Ferdinand suggesting that they were über confident have since emerged, but they weren’t alone in feeling as though this was a United side that could achieve absolutely anything.

Instead of performing to their best, the players were an embarrassment in the second-half. If Bruno Fernandes played for Liverpool, I would be ashamed of the antics that he gets up to. Throwing his arms in the air in disgust when something doesn’t go his way or feigning injury to try to win a free-kick or get someone sent off; if he put half as much effort into actually playing football then he’d be the best player in the world. Having downplayed the Anfield atmosphere before the match, ten Hag spent his post-match interviews talking about the ‘unprofessional’ nature of the United performance. Neville laughingly suggested on Sky Sports that Liverpool didn’t actually play that well. Keane, uncharacteristically, chose to keep his counsel and let his former teammate look like an idiot. United will still finish in the top four and they may well win another piece of silverware this season, but they aren’t as good as everyone has been suggesting, as yesterday’s result shows.

Liverpool Aren’t Dead Yet

This has been a remarkably strange season for Liverpool. The Reds crashed out of both domestic cups and have lost to the likes of Leeds United and Nottingham Forest. There was a confidence heading into the home match against Real Madrid in the Champions League, only for us to lose 5-2. When we drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace, I said on my Twitter feed that it was difficult to escape the feeling that there is something fundamentally broken about the team at the moment. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, of course, and it is vital that we go to Bournemouth at the weekend and win again, but there is no question that this result shows a group of players that seems to finally be understanding what the manager wants from them. Yes, everything went right. Yet that can only happen if the foundations are good in the first place. Many, myself included, questioned what Cody Gakpo brought after his first few games. We know now.

When the team news came out, I was concerned about Harvey Elliott’s inclusion in midfield over Stefan Bajčetić. That was partly because of how well Bajčetić has been playing, but also due to the fact that I’m not sure that Elliott has worked in midfield. How wrong I was. I had also all but written off Fabinho’s future at the club, but he’s been back to his best for the past few games. I have often said that I love looking like an idiot. Nothing makes me happier than to have a negative opinion about a Liverpool player made to look ridiculous. I always want to be wrong in such circumstances and the Reds proved me to be so in emphatic fashion. Mo Salah has struggled to discover his place in the side at times this season, but he seems to have found it now. If United believed their own press, they also fell for the reported idea that this Liverpool team is done and dusted. Not by a long shot. Summer recruitment is still necessary, but the basis of Jürgen Klopp’s next great side is there for all to see.

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