Man Utd & Liverpool – Turning Of The Tides


Manchester United v Liverpool

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In football, as much as life, a lot can happen in a year. And in football, as much as life, everything is cyclical.

For two decades, Manchester United lorded it over Liverpool. Title after title, they rubbed the Merseysiders’ noses in it. Last season broke that particular mould to some degree. That cycle, however, lasted a lot shorter than Liverpool fans would have hoped for. Sunday’s derby between the two clubs could, and should, be a profound example of why this sport is so unforgiving.

The 16th of March, 2014. Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool squad swaggered up to Old Trafford on the back of four wins on the bounce, with fifteen goals plundered over those games. Five against Arsenal. Three against Fulham. Four against Swansea. Another three at St. Mary’s versus Southampton.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Liverpool - Old Trafford

They were on a title charge that would have made Sir Alex Ferguson, at his most blasé, blush. David Moyes’ Manchester United side were swotted disdainfully out of the way that day like you would an annoying fly. It set down a marker for what many felt would be a changing of the guards for seasons to come; a match that would long be remembered by both sets of supporters for opposing reasons.

Only a few short months later and the balance, from a Manchester United perspective, has been corrected. The cycle of hurt reversed. Errors that were made in the post-Fergie era, to a large extent, have been redressed. The Old Trafford hotseat, of which few mere mortals can handle, is now occupied by a managerial behemoth.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Southampton v Manchester United - St Marys

The full force of the club’s financial arsenal has been unloaded upon the transfer market over June, July and August. World class names have been added to a roster needing somewhat of an overhaul. After a summer of mistakes the previous year, badly needed common sense and intelligence has prevailed and it is finally beginning to show. All is not perfect, though; there are still issues to be resolved, but the real rebuilding job is finally under way at the hand of Louis Van Gaal.

If the Manchester United board spent the summer undoing mistakes, the Liverpool board spent the same period making them. After what was quite an incredible season, one in which they left their bitter Lancashire rivals in their dust, few would have guessed how far Rodgers’ side would have fallen since.

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The sale of Luis Suarez was a huge blow. No one could sensibly argue Liverpool would have been better off without him. He was a genius – a mad genius. There was little the board could do. His career at the club had become untenable, his sale to Barcelona inevitable.

The post-Suarez era, just like the post-Fergie era, has been error-laden, though. FSG, Liverpool’s owners, sanctioned a huge outlay on players over the summer: £117 million spent. For various reasons – mostly because Rodgers has failed to use them correctly – none of these players have yet justified their price tags. Once again, the club’s infamous ‘transfer committee’ have failed. While Manchester United have been out buying in Harrods and Brown Thomas, Liverpool have been looking for value in TK Maxx.

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Brendan Rodgers is still a young manager with unproven credentials in an incredibly difficult period of his life and, as much as he’d claim otherwise, he retains the doubt that that brings.

This weekend, his opposing colleague’s career couldn’t be more contrasting. Van Gaal has won everything in the game and has the confidence and self-belief that comes with it. In a week that could define Rodgers short career to date, he has already failed one test. A defeat at Old Trafford Sunday – a bad one – and it could all come crashing down.

There is still plenty of football to be played this campaign. Who knows what will happen between now and May? Right now, though, it is undisputable what direction both clubs are moving in.

A year is a long time in football – both sets of supporters know that now only too well – and when the curtain comes down early Sunday afternoon, there will be no place to hide.