LIVERPOOL: Liverpool spent a lot of the final 30 years dwelling in Manchester United’s shadow, however after three many years their time to be topped champions of England once more is nigh.
A 2-Zero win over United at Anfield put the European champions 16 factors clear on the prime of the Premier League and 30 factors forward of fifth-placed United, with a sport in hand to return on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s aspect simply 22 matches into the season.
Even in United’s heyday as they reeled in and overtook Liverpool’s report of 18 English titles by reaching 20 beneath Alex Ferguson was there ever such a gulf between the edges as there may be now.
Sunday’s scoreline flattered the guests, who wanted assistance from VAR and a good offside name to disclaim Liverpool two extra targets.
By then, United already trailed to Virgil van Dijk’s header because the Dutchman towered above the person who changed him because the world’s most costly defender, Harry Maguire, to place Liverpool on their strategy to a 13th consecutive league win.
Two years on from his £75 million (US$98 million) transfer from Southampton, Van Dijk has been a transformative determine in turning Liverpool from flakey entertainers into serial winners beneath Jurgen Klopp.
United tried to repeat Liverpool’s instance when their long-running pursuit of Maguire ended with them paying Leicester £5 million extra for the England worldwide in August.
Maguire was even handed the United captaincy this week after the departure of Ashley Younger to Inter Milan, however has not had almost the identical influence at each ends of the sphere.
Van Dijk’s opener was his 10th aim for Liverpool, 4 of which have come within the Premier League this season.
“He is in all probability one of many, if not the, most prolific centre-halves within the league,” mentioned Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose nook picked out Van Dijk.
“To have somebody like that, who’s going into the field and placing his head on the tip of issues is implausible.”
Maguire has but to internet for his new membership, however it’s his failure to make a marked enchancment to United’s defence that has been the most important disappointment.
For the reason that opening weekend of the season, United have saved simply three clear sheets within the league.
Liverpool, in contrast, are once more the meanest backline within the division thanks largely to a run of eight consecutive clear sheets.
As accidents robbed the Reds of goalkeeper Alisson Becker and his central defensive companions at totally different levels of the marketing campaign, Van Dijk has been the ever-present within the Liverpool defence as he’s but to overlook a minute of the league marketing campaign.
After Roberto Firmino and Georginio Wijnaldum had targets dominated out, Jordan Henderson hit the publish and Mohamed Salah missed an excellent probability to kill United off, Liverpool needed to face up to a nervy remaining 20 minutes earlier than Salah added a second with nearly the final kick of the sport.
Nevertheless, Van Dijk held agency, continuously in the correct place to move clear or get his physique in the best way.
“He is confirmed that he is in all probability the very best centre-half on this planet during the last 18 months and he confirmed that once more at present,” added Alexander-Arnold.
“His defensive work in all probability goes a bit unnoticed as a result of we’re so used to seeing it however you possibly can’t take it without any consideration.
“He is at all times there in the correct locations, the quantity of headers he was getting out the field for us, successful headers off corners, is priceless for us.”
The drastically totally different returns on lavish charges splurged on Van Dijk and Maguire are symptomatic of how Liverpool have left United of their wake.
United have spent considerably extra within the six-and-a-half years since Ferguson retired, however Liverpool’s enterprise has been far shrewder and they’re now reaping their rewards.