Liverpool's Success Hurts United More Than Anyone

Following a brilliant season for Liverpool and a disastrous year at Man United, Johnny believes there is a power shift at the top of the Prem. Can United halt the slide?

Last Updated: 31/03/14 at 09:26 Post Comment

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Liverpool are back, back, back. That's bad enough for Manchester United, but the Reds' resurgence is a huge threat to them on every level, far more than to any other top club.

Once Liverpool buy a proper defence and add some depth to the squad, the chances are they will once again become a European behemoth, sooner rather than later. The talk at the start of the season was of a possibility of Champions League qualification but that's a given now. The title is within their grasp and to all of us who grew up when Liverpool were an inexorable grinding machine of football winningness, it's an almost reassuring sight. A warm glow in football's fireplace and it is United who are burning.

But it isn't just the quality of Liverpool's players and manager that United need to worry about now, it is the fact that the team which stands above all the rest is actually called Liverpool. That name matters.

Other pretenders to the English crown, Chelsea and Manchester City, had to throw a billion quid or more at the project to start to attract the best players and get to the top, partly because they were not clubs with a huge worldwide reputation until the money arrived. They had little pull per se. While Liverpool have to be financially competitive, the club's name, history and reputation will be uniquely attractive. It may be a generation and a half since Liverpool were league champions but they still enjoy a huge following all over the world. Just a mere 533 million fans. What's more, they are often a really passionate bunch. Not mere fly-by-nights, they have lived off slim pickings for years but still kept the faith.

The 2005 Champions League win kept them in the mass football consciousness and now, as they threaten to reassert their old hegemony, they are immediately a top attraction over and above many other teams and are less likely to have to overpay to get top players and more likely to actually be able to sign top players. The World Cup is coming, a time for signing the world's best and Liverpool look like the big new game in town while United, well, they don't. But at least they've got a 'long term project'. If only we were proper football people, we'd understand that.

With Brendan Rodgers' reputation as a progressive and inspirational manager in the ascendancy, they have that most crucial of things, momentum. And, in contrast to what is happening at Old Trafford, they look like winners. Rodgers looks like a winner and a winning Liverpool is a hugely magnetic force in world football in a way that no other club, other than United can be. And where are United? Patronizing us with talk of 'long-term projects' from a short-term manager. Liverpool have a long term project too, it is to kick United's arse all the way back to the failure of the 1980s and it has already begun.

The sudden, dramatic leap forward from seventh to, in all likelihood, a top-two finish, changes the whole architecture and politics of Premier League but it is especially cataclysmic for Manchester United. Chelsea and City have unlimited funds and are well-motivated to use them. Arsenal may soon have a modern manager, unafraid to spend millions and who knows how to win things is put in charge. United's task to reclaim their pre-eminence is huge because of this. But it doesn't stop there.

Everton's progress after being freed from the shackles of their previous manager may yet attract a big buy out. If they over-take Arsenal this season and get a fourth finish, that becomes all the more likely. And then there is Spurs, perennially limp when it comes to the vinegar strokes, but still with a lot of money to invest and probably a new, world-renowned coach next season wearing a jacket with sleeves and everything. Six clubs all of which look in better shape than a United-led Moyes.

Suddenly, dramatically, United are left out in the cold as everyone else puts the pedal to the metal and accelerates away. Liverpool are the shiny new progressive attractive club playing a visceral kind of attacking football that is the most exciting to witness since the glory days of Cristiano Ronaldo at United. Who wouldn't want to be part of a big new successful era at Anfield? Conversely, who would want to be part of an already tired and failed regime at United? These questions need to be asked now.

It is unarguable on any basis that United need someone with a huge reputation to attract players, someone who has won trophies at the highest level and someone who simply isn't afraid of the job. They need them here and now. They didn't see Liverpool coming and now their rivals have left them for dead. This is no time to stand and stare. The Reds are over the hill and gone. What are you doing, again? Oh yeah, it's a 'long-term project' isn't it?

Stay with Moyes or get Moyes' replacement wrong and just like that, almost overnight, United will be fighting it out for the Europa League places on a regular basis and certainly unable to compete with Liverpool. Quickly and ruthlessly they have been left behind. They didn't seem to realise how this could happen nor how quickly it could happen. They didn't see how one major wrong decision can alter everything. But it can. It has. Seventh isn't a freakish position - without radical action immediately, seventh will be United's home for years, just as it has belonged to Liverpool during their spell outside the Champions League.

You just can't step off the bus and expect to get back on just like that. Moyes and the craven United board have knocked United's pre-eminent position in world football and it should be in no doubt that Liverpool, their biggest rivals, will quickly and ruthlessly crush them if United do not fearlessly replace Moyes and invest in proper talent. And even if they do that, it is already a long way back. One more wrong more wrong move now - keeping Moyes for even another month or appointing the wrong man again - and the task becomes monumental.

This is a profound moment in English football. A huge shift in power and success is now rapidly under way. One club looks like the future, one looks like the past. That is the real long-term project. In very different but equally profound ways Moyes and Rodgers have changed everything.

Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com

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