Next birthday I am 37 years old. Although to be honest after last night’s Anfield Wrap Christmas party I feel about 57. But 37 certainly feels old enough. Approaching middle age, with little to look forward to apart from a midlife crises and my body packing in. Still, at least The Reds are great.
This has not always been the case throughout my life. I mean in the grand scheme of things they have been quite good. I’m sure fans of most clubs would take Liverpool’s last thirty years. It just hasn’t been anywhere near as good as the thirty before it. And certainly not as good as our rivals down the road in Stretford. Which has been most annoying.
I first got a season ticket in 1992, when I was 10. Officially there were two for “the family” but it was basically me and my dad. That season Manchester United won their first title for 25 years, and by the time the decade was out they had won five more. My dad had basically bought me a front row seat for Manchester United’s greatest period of dominance. Which probably wasn’t what he had in mind when he got them, but never mind.
Manchester United didn’t always win at Anfield during this period, but they seemed to a lot. Mark Hughes turned into Andy Cole, who turned into David Beckham. One year Jamie Carragher even scored twice for them. Even the good memories, like Neil Ruddock’s late header, seemed to only be draws. No matter how good we were, they just seemed to be better.
As I said you can hardly complain of it being a dismal period at Anfield. I can’t imagine I am getting much sympathy from fans of, say, Cambridge United complaining about a period where we won several cups, including the European one. It’s just we were constantly being upstaged by Reds from Manchester.
For example, in 2001 Liverpool won three cups and we all had a great time, but it was Manchester United who won the league. In 2009 Liverpool lost only twice in the league all season, beat Manchester United 4-1 at Old Trafford and amassed 86 points. Yet it was Manchester United who lifted the title again. It seemed like football was a simple game. Twenty-two men chased a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Mancs always won.
Except now, they don’t. In fact, so far this season, Liverpool have won six more times in the league than Manchester United have.
If Liverpool win on Sunday they’ll have double Manchester United’s wins so far.
This would have been inconceivable to a teenage me. There have been a few false dawns. For example in 2013/14 Liverpool beat Moyes’ Man U home and away and finished 20 points ahead of them. Yet by the following season it was back to normal, and Liverpool have only finished above United once since.
But now it feels different. Liverpool don’t just look a better team than Manchester United but a better club. Ironically, it is Liverpool who are the united one. With everyone pulling in the same direction and determined to succeed. At Old Trafford it looks a mess. The manager doesn’t seem to like the Chief Exec, the players don’t seem to like the manager and the fans don’t seem to like any of them.
Unfortunately that doesn’t mean Liverpool will definitely win on Sunday. Football doesn’t work like that. Sometimes the little team upsets the big one (arf!) and, besides, I am sure Jose Mourinho and his players would like nothing more than beating this Liverpool team everyone is raving about. They have looked like they are struggling for motivation at some points this season, but they certainly won’t need any help getting up for this one.
But this Liverpool team is different. They get the job done.
Sometimes, like the Merseyside derby, in the most ridiculous way, but usually, like Bournemouth last weekend, in the most professional. So far this season Liverpool haven’t dropped any points to any team below fifth in the table. Manchester United are currently sixth.
Can they book the trend? Well it’s possible. But it’s more likely this becomes another test this Liverpool side passes. If only Everton could’ve done done us a favour against City. Now that would be a great Christmas pressie!