Liverpool fans will be waking up after a weekend which saw them firmly put in place by a Manchester United team driven, motivated and with a returning Marcus Rashford to punish a lacklustre defence. Jurgen Klopp must be heading to training this morning frustrated that he was unable to make up a plan to break down a resilient Untied defence and that the free flowing, heavy scoring football of recent weeks just did not click. United have presented a blue print of how to deal with the feared front line of Liverpool and made Mo Salah, who has not been able to stop scoring, nullified into a passenger.
Although Everton is the local derby, the games against Manchester United always define where Liverpool are and even the most hardened fan of the Reds must admit that at the weekend, they were a long way behind Manchester United in terms of tactics, clinical finishing and big match experience. Salah and Mane have excelled at ripping apart lesser teams, but faced with a well organised defence and a tactic aimed at stopping them, they failed to shine. The rest of the team lacked inspiration and did not look like a patch on the team that could be considered one of the most attractive in world football. Klopp must take some responsibility…arguable the biggest match of his 2018 went with a whimper and now he must look to settling for 3rd at best.
The question lingers after the performance at the weekend, will a 3rd place finish and no trophies represent a success for Liverpool. Of course, a good run or unlikely win in the Champions League would change the season altogether, but in realistic terms it looks like the 3rd place finish is the best they can hope for?
In a season where 6 teams began with Champions League qualification hopes, it must be outlined that the 4 teams who manage to qualify have at least achieved the minimum. As March began, the league title was sown up, Arsenal looked to have dropped from contention and baring a disaster Liverpool are safely in.
Surely fans must expect more? Selling your finest player is never going to produce immediate returns, but the emergence of the attacking line has been a revelation but for all the positives that are talked about the Klopp revolution and the Klopp way, the simple fact remains that Liverpool are as far away from the title as they have ever been. They can easily dominate the teams below them, they can score freely when the game is going their way but when their backs are against the wall and they come up against a resilient defence, there is no Plan B and they team fizzles out.
If the season ends with Liverpool lifting the Champions League trophy Klopp and this team will be hailed as legends and talked about in the same manner as the 2005 team who failed in the league yet won the biggest prize. If they remain trophiless and 3rd, questions will be asked. Can they accept another season of getting no closer to the league title?