LIVERPOOL’S exciting pursuit of the Premier League title at precisely the same time as Manchester United are in meltdown represents an extraordinary degree of sporting symmetry.
When Sir Alex Ferguson became manager of relegation-threatened United in 1986, his expletive-sprinkled declared goal was to knock Liverpool ‘off their perch’ and end their years of domination.
Liverpool went on to win the next two League titles to take their haul to 18; United at the time had seven. That was 22 years ago. Now Liverpool still have 18 and United have 20.
The rivalry between England’s two most decorated clubs has always been fierce, but while Liverpool have hardly sunk without trace during the Premier League years – unlike other giants such as Leeds – they have seldom threatened a serious comeback.
Now a storyline is unfolding that only the most imaginative fiction writer could have come up with: in the same season that United find themselves Fergie-less, their biggest rivals are thrillingly resurgent. The boot is suddenly on the other foot.
United, under David Moyes, are in convulsions, languishing a third of the way down the league, while Liverpool, expertly led by Brendan Rodgers, have hit the top of the table as the closest title race in years enters its final lap.
Liverpool, the club that dominated English football for two decades and bestrode Europe in their halcyon days, are very firmly back on their perch and genuine contenders for the top prize, even if Manchester City remain the bookies’ favourites. The pair meet at Anfield next Sunday, 13th April.
The month of March may even have signalled a change in the powerbase of the English game. Both Liverpool and Everton won all five of their Premier League matches, putting the Mersey beat back on top of the football charts.
Everton’s reawakening after a bit of a slump has put them back in contention for a Champions League place. They have climbed to fifth place, hot on the tiring heels of Arsenal, and – another twist in the plot – the two meet at Goodison Park this Sunday.
It all represents a double blow for the hapless Moyes. At Old Trafford they are looking upwards not only at Liverpool but also at Everton, the club he left to go on to bigger and better things. It’s a case of irony heaped upon irony.