“Oh come let us adore them” bellowed a joyful and triumphant Kop, singing one of its favourite songs. Indeed, the adoration for this group of players and a manager at the peak of his powers knows no bounds.
Driving rain on a filthy afternoon at Anfield was no dampener on proceedings as the arch enemy were finally swept aside in glorious fashion; Liverpool’s dominance of a supine Manchester United absolute nirvana for a crowd which loves nothing more than to laud it over opponents who have inflicted so much pain over the years. This is a pallid incarnation of United but that takes nothing away from the joy of rubbing Jose Mourinho’s nose in it and reinforcing Liverpool’s current ascendancy over those dastardly foes from other end of the M62.
Xherdan Shaqiri: “I was looking at the game and I could see there were a lot of opportunities. Today was a very good day for me. It was perfect.”
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) December 16, 2018
These are unprecedented times in Liverpool’s modern history. If the Reds have to break new ground to win the league title then the challenge seemingly holds no fears. The pressure of having to endlessly deliver three points seems to carry no weight even in the biggest games; whether it is conjuring an unlikely last minute victory in the Merseyside Derby or finding the will to eventually demolish United when they threatened to sneak a wholly underserved draw.
Jurgen Klopp currently has the Midas Touch, his every selection paying dividends.
In turn, all of his players are stepping up to the plate, the very essence of a squad game illustrated in Nathaniel Clyne’s ability to emerge from the shadows and offer a performance that suggested he had never been away. Klopp’s new-found comfort with rotation is at the heart of a burgeoning belief this Liverpool team can stay the course.
Suddenly Fabinho looks a monstrous midfield presence, his early season lethargy a quickly receding memory. Not only has he developed a strut and assurance, there is a growing guile and touch that belies his lanky frame. His first-half chip into the path of Sadio Mane was that of a visionary and Mane’s immaculate volleyed finish past David de Gea something to behold. This was no more than Liverpool deserved having swamped United from the start. If Mourinho predictably came to smother, his defence had no answer to Mane’s darts from the right, Mohammed Salah’s industry through the middle and Roberto Firmino at his foraging best.
That United were able to fashion an equaliser was as much as a shock as the sight of Alisson Becker demonstrating he might be human after all. After his recent heroics he can be forgiven the unfortunate spill from Romelu Lukaku’s cross which he inadvertently kneed into the path of Jesse Lingard. Temporarily, the visitors were able to regather themselves and find some rhythm but with no intention other than to preserve a status quo gifted to them in their first meaningful attack. Perhaps fortune lay in that Alisson’s rare aberration came before the break with time for Liverpool to get it out of their system and renew their assault.
The first half of the second period was bound in frustration as the Reds pounded the United goal, urged on by a belligerent Kop. Despite Liverpool’s utter domination, the visitors managed to repel a succession of corners and wave after wave of attack foundered on a wall of dark blue United shirts. But this Liverpool team continues to find a way when everything is at stake.
Klopp increasingly masters the art of substitution and in Xherdan Shaqiri he has the perfect maverick waiting in the wings.
Two goals from the diminutive Swiss imp in seven delirious minutes have the home crowd in paroxysms of delight.
The deflections are glorious; the first clipping a United heel and cannoning the ball upwards against the underside of the bar and into the roof of the net in classic fashion, and the second diverting a sure side-foot in a beautiful arc of cruelty past the flailing arms of De Gea.
The Reds have cleared another massive hurdle in this unrelenting race. Seventeen of them have now been vaulted and still this incredible team forge on with certainty and conviction and just a miserly six points dropped as the half-way point nears. This isn’t just championship form, it is something that goes way beyond that.
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