IT’S been over a year now since I wrote an article stating my belief that Liverpool’s squad was as strong as Manchester United’s, based solely ‘man-for-man’, of course. As a team unit, they were still quite a way apart last season but I believe that we had players of equal – or better – quality, they just weren’t coming together as well.
But, then again, Ferguson’s great ability has always been getting team performances out of 11 average players.
A few weeks back, during the Liverpool v Man Utd game, I noticed a lot of comments from their fans along the lines ‘how are we being outplayed by a poor team?’, etc. and it got me thinking again: are Manchester United really so much better than us? I mean, sure, they still have that uncanny ability to pull wins out of…well, seemingly nothing but that’s all to do with Ferguson’s pact with the Devil.
When you get down to the finer details, you’ll see a group of very average players, ably assisted by one or two great. I’ve discussed this many times since the season started, with friends and family, and we all agree: Man Utd will struggle to keep up this year, perhaps even having to settle for a place in the Europa next season!
Already, they are 4 points behind a very consistently strong-looking Chelsea side, and I believe that City, Arsenal and Spurs are all much stronger this year and if they slip behind before Christmas, I can’t see them catching up. Sure, they’re in second now, but have they actually faced anybody decent besides ourselves and Tottenham yet? No, and they lost to Everton and Southampton also ran them pretty close.
So when I look over their squad and see players like Smalling, Jones, De Gea, Kagawa, Nani, Anderson and Young (all expensive and yet to convince) and stalwarts that are clearly past it like Scholes, Ferdinand and Giggs, I smile to think of the much smaller fees we paid for much higher quality players such as Skrtel, Agger, Reina, Allen, Sterling, Lucas and Shelvey, and the experienced veterans that we can still call upon such as Carragher and Gerrard.
As always, there is still the same element of respect and fear surrounding the club and that is something which, over the past 25 years, Ferguson has cultivated to perfection. Clubs still relinquish points and wins to Man Utd purely out of fear; they believe the game is lost before they even turn up and this psychological element probably gives them as many points per season as the somewhat dodgy refereeing decisions we all complain about with regularity provides them with. We saw this against Howard Webb and Manchester United on Sunday evening, but many teams will overcome the 12-men of Manchester Utd this season, of that I’m sure.
The result against Tottenham last week showed me something I saw – even against 10 men – when they were at Anfield a few weeks ago: huge vulnerabilities all over the park. We just didn’t have the capabilities to take advantage of them, but I believe many others (ourselves included) will, as the season progresses.
It may sound a bit rich to say this, particularly given our current league position (and our inability to win at home!), but I really don’t see anything about Man Utd, at present, that we should be concerned about. They’re above us in the league, of course, but it’s very early days and 9 points can be made up easily at this point.
As always, this is just conjecture and only my opinion, but at present there are only two things I am envious of Utd for: Van Persie and their current league position. In terms of our squads, ours is the better equipped – for both this season, but particularly future ones – and once we hit form, we should chase them down pretty quickly.
I’m almost certain that some will disagree, and everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but if we can pick up a solid, 15-20 goal-per-season striker in January and continue going from strength-to-strength prior to that, we are superbly equipped to have a better season, and maybe even aid Ferguson into early retirement in the process.
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