Rarely has a 4-0 defeat for Manchester United seemed so inevitable as the thrashing dished out on Tuesday by a Liverpool side sensing their shot at history.
Ten matches now stand between Jurgen Klopp’s men and potentially the first ever quadruple of Premier League, UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.
They will be lucky if they get another game as easy as the one offered by a United side lacking any quality or fighting spirit, even though the scoreline stopped short of the 5-0 humiliation at Old Trafford in October.
“They make our life easier,” said Mohamed Salah, scorer of five of Liverpool’s nine Premier League goals against United this season, in a withering assessment of his opponents.
Add in United’s two meetings with Manchester City, and the Old Trafford Club have lost all four games to the standard bearers of English football in 2021/22, conceding 15 goals and scoring only once.
City can regain top spot in the Premier League from Liverpool with victory over Brighton on Wednesday as another title fight between the two looks set to be decided by the finest of margins.
By contrast, 22 points now separate Liverpool from sixth-placed United, who seem on the brink of appointing Ajax coach Erik ten Hag as their new manager.
The Dutchman will become the fifth United manager to have the misfortune of crossing swords with Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp.
United’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick spelt out the need for a long-term plan if the Red Devils are to match the sustained excellence that Klopp and Pep Guardiola have brought to Liverpool and City respectively.
“If you look at those two clubs who are currently dominating the Premier League, they brought in two managers, but not only that, they changed the whole thing with regards to formation. What kind of players do we need? What kind of football do we want to play?
– Liverpool like ’25 F1 cars’ –
“The headline of everything was ‘how do we want to play?’ Underneath this headline in every transfer window, they created the team they have in both clubs.”
Rangnick described Liverpool’s current squad as “25 Formula One racing cars” compared to the lethargy of the squad at his disposal, many of whom may have run their last races for the club.
“The team needs a rebuild, not because some players have to go but because quite a few players’ contracts are expiring,” added Rangnick.
“Therefore for me it’s clear that there will be six, seven, eight, maybe 10 new players, and before you sign those players, you need to know what kind of football does the new manager want to play.
“Then bring every single player fitting into that profile.”
Liverpool are the embodiment of that joined-up thinking.
Seven years on from Klopp’s arrival at Anfield, they have never looked better.
Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane and Salah remain from the backbone of the team to have already been crowned English and European champions in recent years.
January signing Luis Diaz, who opened the floodgates on Tuesday, has added even more firepower.
And after an injury-disrupted first season in England, Thiago Alcantara is pulling the strings in midfield like he previously did for Barcelona and Bayern Munich in a glittering career.