By Jonathan Carroll
Realistic expectations for this current Liverpool squad were a top four finish at the start of the season. Some television pundits thought even that was a bridge too far. There have been many questions arising over the course of the season in relation to how Liverpool would fare. Brendan Rodgers has without question, been learning on the job (see Southampton at home). What is clear however is that he has a philosophy and an adaptability with a squad of players whom he had no hand in purchasing. His coaching ability is there for all to see and this Liverpool team are gaining momentum at just the right time.
Sundays demolition of Manchester United at Old Trafford helped boost the redmen into second in the premier league. Four points behind Chelsea and with a game in hand on the leaders. Hot on the heels of Liverpool are Arsenal and Manchester City. Two penalties from Steven Gerrard and a Luis Suarez strike helped Liverpool thrash an abject looking United team. Rodgers’ use of the diamond in midfield with Raheem Sterling at the front of it helped nullify Marouane Felliani and the pace of the Liverpool youngster was too much for the leggy Belgian.
Steven Gerrard will get the limelight for his penalties, but his performance also shone through in his new deeper role. His life is made easier by a relentless Jordan Henderson and Joe Alllen. Both players never stopped chasing and closing down players as Liverpool pressed United when they had possession.
Both Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson impressed at outside back as they nullified anything coming down the wings and also covered their centre halves when the ball was on the opposite side of the pitch. Rodgers’ men were accomplished in possession, dangerous on the break and in reality looked like scoring every time they went forward. Particularly in the second half. There is no front two in the premier league more potent right now that Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. They have pace and guile in abundance. It must be a nightmare to face them.
So Manchester United are falling from grace. I don’t expect this fall to last too long. This year, regardless of whether Liverpool win the league or not is a huge opportunity to gather ground on United. Gather ground in the form of buying players we may not have been able to convince before, but now due to possible Champions League Football we have that extra attraction. Gather ground by engraining a winning tradition at the club. A never say die that a game is never over. Sound familiar? Yes, Alex Ferguson took the Liverpool way and applied it to his United teams. The fear of facing a rampant Liverpool team has returned. Something probably not seen since John Barnes roamed the wing for the reds. If there is no title this season then we will be up there next season.
That does however depend on whether John Henry will give the all clear for a big summer spend. Henry must recognize how big this opportunity is to reclaim our perch in English and European football. It matches the start of the premier league. Graeme Souness was in charge then, he made awful additions to the then squad as he got rid of more mature players that had previously been part of Kenny Dalglish’s untouchables. Liverpool lost ground as United, Arsenal and Chelsea found money and success in our absence. Chances like this do not come along often.
This summer must see the owners spend heavily but also on the right players. Rodgers is a manager with the potential for greatness. The speed at which he has transformed this squad is obvious for all to see. What if he had the funds to get quality in depth at every position? Liverpool could reign again. This season has already exceeded my expectations. There is a real chance Rodgers could guide Liverpool to the title this season. The manager has shown he and his players can compete against the best in the league. The players believe in what the manager is doing and it shows. They continue to make us dream. Long may it last!
- 01 de Gea – 6
- 02 Rafael – 4 (Booked)
- 03 Evra – 3
- 16 Carrick – 5
- 04 Jones – 4
- 15 Vidic – 5 (Sent Off)
- 08 Mata – 6 (Ferdinand – 87′ )
- 31 Fellaini – 4 (Cleverley – 76′ )
- 20 van Persie – 4
- 10 Rooney – 5
- 44 Januzaj – 6 (Welbeck – 76′ )
- 05 Ferdinand
- 13 Lindegaard
- 18 Young
- 19 Welbeck
- 23 Cleverley
- 25 Antonio Valencia
- 26 Kagawa
- 22 Mignolet – 5
- 02 Johnson – 6
- 38 Flanagan – 7 (Booked)
- 08 Gerrard – 8(Booked) (Lucas – 87′ )
- 37 Skrtel – 6 (Booked)
- 05 Agger – 6
- 14 Henderson – 8
- 31 Sterling – 7 (Coutinho – 72′ )
- 15 Sturridge – 7 (Booked) (Iago Aspas – 92′ )
- 07 Suarez – 7
- 24 Allen – 7
09 Iago Aspas