23 August 2022
To say I expected Liverpool to run out winners against Man Utd on the weekend is a bit of an understatement. Given the abject apathy our first two games entailed I was expecting another hiding to be honest and whilst Liverpool themselves had injury worries and suspension of their new striker, I genuinely didn’t think United would muster much against them. Mostly because, it seemed, the players weren’t taking to Ten Hag’s system or, as they’ve seemingly done in the past, just decided they didn’t give enough of a shit. However, it’s games like this, with rivalries on the line, that can somehow inject life and passion where previously there had been none.
Whilst I’ve been hoping Maguire would be dropped for a while, it seemed his status as our captain was something of a mountain to overcome. He’s shown, at least for club more than country, that he’s not the player he was when he arrived. He seems less sure of himself, more prone to error and often quick to, seemingly, criticise others for his mistakes. However, it seems Ten Hag had seen enough and dropping him and bringing in Varane in his place created a much more assured back four and by extension a more confident goalkeeper in De Gea. Now, I don’t often play as a goalkeeper, I’m mostly at left-back these days, but when I have had to fill in between the posts, knowing your defence are there to back you up but also are quite hard to get past, gives you confidence also. If, however, your defenders aren’t so assured you’re more nervy, prone to over-thinking, and that can lead to some of the errors we’ve seen creeping into De Gea’s game.
Now one result doesn’t mean a lot, even if it is against one of your biggest rivals. A season is a marathon not a sprint and we need to play like we did consistantly and over a full ninety minutes. What it did show, I hope, to Ten Hag is that if he is to get the reactions he wants then he has to be ruthless. The players at the club have, to me at least, had it far too easy and have rested knowing that they’re unlikely to get the hook, even with poor performances. When Sir Alex was in charge, from memory at least, if you crossed him or, in his mind, put themselves before the club then you were likely to see the door. Even Jaap Stam wasn’t clear of this as we sold him when he was still in his prime and there’s plenty examples if you go back through his tenure.
I really am hoping this has woken the players up. Made them more keenly aware that their position in the squad and at the club isn’t assured. We had passion, we had drive and purpose against Liverpool and that’s something I’ve not seen from our squad for quite some time. We’ve got Southampton next and if Liverpool was our statement then we need to follow it up with action against the Saints.