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09th May 2019

Liverpool’s exploits feel a million miles away from the mess at Manchester United

There is around 30 miles between Liverpool and Manchester, but as far as the two red giants are concerned, it feels like lightyears.

Nooruddean Choudry

Football is ultimately about winning things.

It’s not always the most fulfilling part of being a football supporter – the eruptions of joy and shared experiences along the way are often more memorable – but silverware is very much the objective. It is of course how you measure any level of success.

Liverpool won their last trophy in 2012, when they beat Cardiff City on penalties in the Carling Cup final. In the seven years since, Manchester United have won the Premier League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Europa League. In a barren spell.

So purely in terms of silverware, Liverpool aren’t yet establishing any dominance over their historic rivals. Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield tenure is into its fourth season and he is still to collect his first winner’s medal. But that is pretty likely to change in coming weeks.

Liverpool must be favourites to lift their sixth European Cup in Madrid. They may not of course, but in their present mood, they look capable and likely to swat aside any team that stands between them and what they see as their manifest destiny.

And in a strange, wholly illogical way, the possibility of them winning the Premier League somehow seems more plausible now too. Not because Manchester City are objectively any less likely to beat Brighton, but because suddenly anything seems possible.

Regardless, what Klopp has done at Liverpool cannot be overstated. In any other year they would have run away with the domestic title at a canter, whilst three European finals in three campaigns cements them once again as a legitimate superpower.

All the while, United are floundering. Their fall from their mythical perch has been as dramatic as Liverpool’s rise. Even accounting for the loss of Sir Alex Ferguson, it has taken some truly outstanding mismanagement to render them so irrelevant so quickly.

The financial contrast compounds the embarrassment. There are numerous reasons why many United fans would rather Manchester City prevailed in the league over Liverpool, but one is that they’d have something to blame in City’s insane wealth.

Liverpool have overtaken them with a relatively meagre budget – and from a far lower starting point – and there’s no excuse for that. Whilst the Merseyside club were busy getting their shit together, their Manc cousins were blindly throwing turds at the wall.

It is especially galling that Klopp’s side have developed some of the key characteristics that defined Fergie-era United. An aura that has the opposition beat before kick-off; the ability to out-think/wit/fight depending on circumstance; and the inevitable comeback.

Another motif stolen from Ferguson’s heyday is the sense that, regardless of who is selected and which star names are absent, any combination of players representing the club will perform with the same drive, desire and unshakeable belief.

If the inverse trajectories of these two great clubs have already crossed, there is little to suggest that they won’t continue on their respective paths. Liverpool’s whole setup is designed to best facilitate the vision of their charismatic manager. He is number one.

Meanwhile at Old Trafford, you get the sense that certain players (and their brands) are of more value and import to the hierarchy than the poor sod charged with managing them. And too many of those players simply aren’t invested in the success of the club.

Over the summer, Klopp’s biggest task will be identifying players who are good enough and suitable enough to improve his already over-achieving, extremely talented and wholly committed squad – whilst ensuring that he doesn’t unsettle the collective spirit.

How, for example, would you explain to Divock Origi that he’s surplus to requirements after his recent heroics and absolute lack of hissy-fits through the season. It contrasts markedly with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s on-field brats and close-season conundrum.

The United coach will be tasked with changing the entire mentality and make-up of his squad, whilst knowing that the calibre of player he yearns probably won’t be minded to join, and that the parties he wants out will be tricky to shift due to prohibitive wages.

Of course Solskjaer’s job becomes even tougher with the knowledge that there’s a manager out there who could very easily have ‘done a Klopp’ at United, but seemingly wasn’t even considered and is instead looking forward to facing the German in Madrid.

As the crow flies, there is around 30 miles between Liverpool and Manchester, but as far as the two red giants of the respective cities are concerned, it feels like lightyears. The coming weeks will allow Klopp to galvanise that with a trophy or two.