For the vast majority of my lifetime, being a #ManchesterUnited supporter has been a success-laden journey of highly entertaining football. Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure was always likely to lead to big changes for the #OldTrafford outfit. Perhaps culturally as much as anything.
Yet it’s worth recalling that there were a few bizarre occurrences on the Scot’s watch as well. Namely, the binning of an admittedly garish looking grey kit amid claims that the players couldn’t pick each other out in them, and what turned out to be a few laughable signings, including Eric Cantona’s brother, Joel, and William Prunier, another Frenchman never heard of before or since.
Now, much has been made of the raft of acquisitions made by Liverpool in recent years. Indeed, at one stage it appeared as if Southampton were acting as a feeder club for those based at Anfield. None of their purchases may have been as odd – or disastrous – as the enlisting of Prunier, the other Cantona, Eric Djemba Djemba, David Bellion or Massimo Taibi, but you wonder were some of the more strange moves made out of desperation?
Put it this way, while the likes of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Ricky Lambert, Joe Allen and James Milner are fine, talented footballers in their own right, with respect, do they resemble a collection capable of winning a league title? Is it not, in fact, instructive that one of those mentioned above was let go by one of the more successful clubs and that said successful entities weren’t queuing up for the others?
Mind you, whatever about any of those listed above, it’s hard to think of a more left-of-field signing in recent times than the move of Steven Caulker from, yes, Southampton, to Liverpool. Without wanting to be too harsh, one wonders is it a bit similar to the rest of the Southampton contingent that were bought during Brendan Rodgers’s tenure at the club – that they looked to be outstanding players whilst with a reasonably gifted team, but haven’t been as impactful at what was a level up from where they were.
Maybe most surprising is that Jurgen Klopp felt the need to bring in the defender at all. That he has done, however, is surely indicative of the expectations which envelope football these days. Or, it might even be argued, it signposts what might be unrealistic expectations surrounding the German’s employers.
Klopp’s arrival has brought a much needed bit of levity back to the Premiership. This corner was and always will be very fond of Jose Mourinho. Alas, the scarves seen on sale outside what – prior to the Newcastle away game – could’ve been declared the theatre of snores given the dross its residents have been churning out, will have to go into storage. For now at least.
Klopp is, in many ways, the antidote to the Portuguese. There’s always been a venomous undercurrent of nefariousness which, given that it’s unlikely to be shed at this point, will forever taint the indisputable greatness of the much travelled enigma. Chances are, it was exactly that – as opposed to any sudden diminishment of his acumen as a football manager – which led to his latest expulsion.
On the other hand, the former Dortmund boss strikes as the sort you’d like to park up beside in the local for a night. He has brought back a lighter side to football management. Even if he does get a look in his eyes similar to what the Apres Match crew used to deploy whilst mimicking Sven Goran Eriksson during the Swede’s stint as England manager!
Another differentiation between the jolly German and the antagonistic one is most obvious in the styles of play they employ. Mourinho used to goad opponents for ‘parking the bus’, but in reality, the output of his erstwhile charges had become pedantic prior to his departure. In contrast, under the new regime, Liverpool have visibly been playing more fluid, up-tempo entertaining football.
All of which would, you’d imagine, have left folk fairly happy with how things are going under the new man. Except evidently it hasn’t. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are champions. Klopp was never going to cause seismic improvement overnight, nobody could. It looks fairly obvious, though, that plunging for someone of Caulker’s ilk may be something of a kneejerk reaction to a few sticky results.
But then, there’s the other old dictum about good managers enabling ordinary people do extraordinary things. Such as the aforementioned Allen annexing a draw against Arsenal in what was undoubtedly one of the games of the season thus far. Yet, for all that, knowing that certain things count by way of judgement above all others. Hence, Liverpool’s insipid offering against their greatest rivals indicated that they still have a way to go before any noteworthy transformation is completed.
Gut feeling remains, though, that Klopp will deliver silverware to Anfield. It just mightn’t happen overnight.