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The Contrasting Fortunes Of Liverpool And Manchester United

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David Moyes and Brendan Rodgers

Liverpool’s trip to Manchester United for the Premier League clash this weekend has a sense of familiarity to it. One team is challenging for the title and goes into the north-west derby as favourites, while the other team hopes for an upset win which would probably be nothing more than a consolation in an otherwise disappointing season. One aspect is new though, that is the usual roles have been reversed.

Manchester United have enjoyed a very successful run in the league under Sir Alex Ferguson which saw them becoming one of the leading teams in world football. On the other hand, Liverpool have not won the competition for 24 years and entered this season after a few seasons of mid-table scrambles.

The last time Liverpool finished a Premier League season in a position higher than Manchester United, Manchester City won the Championship (then called the Nationwide League Division One), and Ipswich Town, Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United qualified for the UEFA Cup (Europa League).

In 21 seasons of the Premier League, Liverpool have finished above Manchester United only once, which was in the 2001-02 season. Liverpool managed to secure the second spot behind Arsenal in the league with a 5-0 win over Ipswich on the final day of the season, while Manchester United finished in the third spot.  A talented and youthful Liverpool team promised a lot, but that was only a false dawn as the club failed to win the league title over the next decade and saw their arch-rivals overtake their tally of league titles instead.

Filling Ferguson’s huge shoes wouldn’t have been easy for anyone, which David Moyes has found the hard way this season. The defending champions languish outside the top 4 positions in the league, and also face the threat of an exit from the Champions League in the pre-quarterfinals. Brendan Rodgers didn’t have the best of starts to his Liverpool career either. Roughly about a year ago, his team was knocked out by Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup, and were placed 7th in the league. But it has been a remarkable turnaround by Rodgers as Liverpool find themselves in the 2nd spot with a healthy goal-difference in the league this season with only 10 games remaining.

There have been inevitable calls for Moyes’ ouster by many among the Old Trafford faithful, but if the success achieved by Rodgers is considered as proof, then Moyes could probably be afforded more time to settle at the club and get the players playing the kind of football he wants them to. Moyes may be right in pointing out the failure of the club in signing some of their transfer targets which could have resulted in a change in the fortunes, but Rodgers has sailed in the same boat as well and is now finally starting the complete the jigsaw puzzle that he wants to build at Liverpool.

While much of Rodgers’ success this season can be attributed to the goal-scoring form of the deadly strike-duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, what has been notable in his faith in the club youngsters. Players like Raheem Sterling, Jon Flanagan, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho have justified their manager’s belief in them with strong performances and have been core to the team’s fortunes this season. On the other hand, Moyes has been tentative in his selection of young players such as Shinji Kagawa and Wilfried Zaha (who has now been loaned out to Cardiff City).

These are indeed contrasting times for the two clubs. Brendan Rodgers seems to be following the path of Alex Ferguson in his initial years in setting down a strong base for achieving success in the long term, while David Moyes’ team runs the risk of mid-table obscurity for the coming seasons similar to what Liverpool faced in the last few seasons. While the rise of the money-bags in the form of Chelsea and Manchester City will make the quest for glory difficult for the two north-west rivals, it will be interesting to see the paths that Brendan Rodgers and David Moyes take their respective teams to.

Published in permission with Yash Asthana. Follow him on Twitter @YashAsthana87