What a horrible start to Liverpool's title challenge. Where is the vibrant side that beat Manchester City 3-1 in the Community Shield and promised so much, leaving pundits to speculate on yet another two horse race? Now one horse is galloping in the direction of the finishing line while the other seems to be limping towards the Knackers Yard.
The terrible Manchester United, considered as poor as they have been at any time since the disastrous 1973-74 season when they were relegated to Division 2 having accumulated only 32 points, now have more points that Liverpool and are perched above them in the table having thoroughly outplayed them last evening in front of their home crowd.
Years ago defeat at the hands of Utd was a considerably more bitter pill to swallow. Now, while the taste is not pleasant, the medicine goes down easier. In my case the lingering enmity towards them ended when I took my son to watch them play Sampdoria in the Aviva. Hard to hate what your children love - drill music might be an exception. Good soccer is to be admired no matter who plays it and bad soccer is to be frowned upon. Last night at Old Trafford Manchester Utd pirouetted the beautiful game while Liverpool performed the ugly duckling, with nothing about their performance to suggest they might evolve into a majestic swan this season. Those that played the better soccer thoroughly deserved their victory.
On top of that, there is a curiosity about how Eric ten Hag might transform the fortunes of a side that has plummeted from hero to zero in such a short period of time. I feel the same about how Jesse Marsch and Eddie Howe will fare at Leeds and Newcastle respectively. More guests are dining at the soccer banquet and it can only be good for the quality of the applied sport.
The former Ajax manager is too astute to think that the victory over Liverpool is a turning point, that an instant treatment for the rot has been found. Like antibiotics, you won't know until you finish the course. Despite Utd's fine outing ten Hag will hardly have marvelled that Liverpool failed to beat his side. Truth is Liverpool have failed to beat any side this season. Their campaign has been shambolic. Their penchant for playing catch-up, having fallen behind in every game, leaves them having to score at least twice to win all three points. In three cup finals last season they failed to manage a single goal even with Sadio Mané, which does not engender confidence that goals are gonna come easy. The side wilts when confronted by high octane opposition, seemingly bereft of any game plan for reversing the tide. Gifted as Klopp is, he can't be expected to work half time magic every game.
After the 1981 Boxing Day defeat at home to Manchester City that saw the Reds drop to 12th position, Bob Paisley ruthlessly culled the team, starting with the captain. Five months later they were champions with the League Cup under their belt for good measure. Jurgen Klopp might think about doing likewise. There are injury concerns, for sure, and the Great Uruguayan Hope bit the hand that fed it. Yet, that hardly explains the pedestrian effort that characterised yesterday's performance. The defence was woeful, it's complacency in the face of a full frontal assault inexplicable. The midfield - what midfield? Might as well put pot plants across the centre line. This is an area of the park that demands vigour not vintage.
Liverpool's powers of recuperation are sublime but the problem with recovering is that it is often too little too late - the title is gone. Acting as a pacemaker for Manchester City is not what Liverpool should be about. The fans deserve better than to see their team perform like a second fiddle. YNWA needs played on the Stradivarius, otherwise it is just noise. Much like drill music.
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