How Liverpool got their groove back and why Manchester United should follow their lead

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The
Reds
had
not
won
a
league
title
in
over
20
years,
had
lifted
just
two
trophies
in
the
previous
nine,
and
had
finished
seventh
in
the
Premier
League
the
previous
season.

Meanwhile,
Manchester
United
would
go
on
to
win
their
12th
Premier
League
title
at
the
end
of
the
2010-11
season,
their
19th
league
win
at
the
time,
taking
them
one
ahead
of
Liverpool
overall.

The
Merseyside
club
had
allowed
itself
to
drift
and
needed
to
learn
lessons
from
their
fiercest
rivals.

When
Tom
Hicks
and
George
Gillett
bought
Liverpool
from
David
Moores
in
2007,
they
brought
with
them
promise
of
investment
that
should
have
enabled
the
club
to
finally
catch
up
with
United.

The
Red
Devils
had
timed
their
period
of
dominance
perfectly,
with
the
birth
of
the
Premier
League
seeing
an
explosion
in
money
and
interest
in
the
English
game,
and
the
combination
of
ambition,
stability
under
Alex
Ferguson
and
numerous
smart
decisions
on
and
off
the
pitch
cemented
United
as
leaders
domestically,
while
Liverpool
struggled
to
keep
up.

However,
despite
promises
of
a
new
stadium
and
backing
of
then
manager
Rafael
Benitez,
with
Gillett
famously
saying:
“If
Rafa
said
he
wanted
to
buy
Snoogy
Doogy,
we
would
back
him”,
initial
investment
dropped
off
quickly,
before
it
became
apparent
that
the
American
duo
were
more
interested
in
taking
money
out
of
the
club
than
putting
it
in.

A
dramatic
few
days
at
the
High
Court
in
London
essentially
kept
Liverpool
from
going
under
as
Hicks
and
Gillett
were
forced
to
sell
up,
and
a
bright
new
dawn
appeared
to
have
arrived
with
the
purchase
by
FSG
(then
known
as
New
England
Sports
Ventures).

Having
successfully
turned
around
the
fortunes
of
the
Boston
Red
Sox
in
Major
League
Baseball,
Liverpool’s
new
owners
set
about
trying
to
put
in
place
the
building
blocks
to
do
the
same
in
English
football.

Struggling
manager
Roy
Hodgson
was
swiftly
dismissed
and
replaced
by
club
legend
Kenny
Dalglish,
while
Damien
Comolli
was
appointed
as
director
of
football
strategy,
tasked
with
using
the
fabled
‘moneyball’ approach
made
famous
in
baseball,
to
the
extent
it
was
later
made
into
a
Hollywood
film
starring
Brad
Pitt.

It
was
indicative
of
the
hit-and-miss
nature
of
the
approach
in
its
early
stages
that
the
first
two
major
investments
were
Luis
Suarez
and
Andy
Carroll,
with
one
an
undoubted
success
and
the
other
a
spectacular
failure.

The
strategy
was
adjusted
after
their
first
pre-season
transfer
window
when
significant
money
was
spent
on
players
who,
on
paper,
were
undervalued,
but
proved
to
still
be
overpriced
in
Stewart
Downing
and
Charlie
Adam,
while
a
young
Jordan
Henderson
had
too
much
expected
of
him
too
soon.

Initial
promise
under
Dalglish
disappeared
in
the
new
owners’
first
full
season
in
charge,
with
an
eighth-place
finish
in
the
league,
though
reaching
both
domestic
cup
finals
was
not
to
be
sniffed
at,
winning
the
EFL
Cup
against
Cardiff
City.

Dalglish
always
felt
like
a
short-term
stop
gap
to
appease
the
fans
and
give
FSG
time
to
get
to
know
the
sport
better,
and
their
appointment
of
Brendan
Rodgers
in
2013
felt
like
the
first
that
truly
had
their
stamp
on
it.

Rodgers
implemented
a
new
style
of
play,
and
in
his
second
season,
very
nearly
won
that
elusive
Premier
League
title,
but
fell
agonisingly
short.

Losing
Suarez
to
Barcelona
at
the
end
of
that
campaign
did
not
help
matters,
but
worse
still,
the
club’s
inability
to
replace
him
even
slightly
adequately

buying
Rickie
Lambert
and
Mario
Balotelli

set
them
back
further
still.

When
Liverpool
lost
6-1
away
to
Stoke
City
on
the
final
day
of
the
2014-15
season,
it
felt
like
all
the
hard
work
up
until
then
had
been
undone,
and
on
top
of
all
that,
club
legend
Steven
Gerrard
was
retiring.

FSG
had
set
up
a
transfer
committee
of
sorts,
with
the
idea
that
several
heads
were
better
than
one,
recruiting
scouts
Barry
Hunter
and
Dave
Fallows
from
Manchester
City,
and
appointing
Michael
Edwards
as
technical
director.

Rodgers
did
not
seem
to
like
working
under
those
conditions,
and
a
bizarre
compromise
appeared
to
be
made
in
2015
whereby
the
transfer
committee
would
get
to
decide
on
one
signing,
such
as
Roberto
Firmino,
while
Rodgers
was
allowed
to
decide
on
another,
such
as
Christian
Benteke.

It
became
apparent
early
in
the
2015-16
season
that
this
would
not
work,
and
so
Rodgers
was
replaced
by
Jurgen
Klopp,
the
man
FSG
had
wanted
before
the
Northern
Irishman
only
to
be
turned
down
by
the
then
Borussia
Dortmund
head
coach.

Since
then,
everyone
at
Liverpool
has
pulled
in
the
same
direction,
which
has
led
to
almost
every
major
decision
made
being
a
correct
one.

It
has
also
caused
the
trophy
cabinet
to
fill
up
again,
with
a
Champions
League,
Premier
League,
FA
Cup,
EFL
Cup,
UEFA
Super
Cup
and
FIFA
Club
World
Cup
all
being
collected
since
the
start
of
the
2018-19
season.

Their
hit
rate
in
the
transfer
market
has
been
the
envy
of
all
major
clubs,
with
the
likes
of
Sadio
Mane,
Mohamed
Salah,
Virgil
van
Dijk,
Fabinho
and
Alisson
all
coming
in
to
significantly
strengthen
the
team
in
recent
years.

There
has
also
been
efficient
continuity
behind
the
scenes,
with
Edwards
promoted
to
sporting
director
in
2016
and
overseeing
so
much
success
in
transfer
dealings,
and
his
exit
at
the
end
of
last
season
saw
Julian
Ward
replace
him,
having
worked
under
Edwards,
being
prepared
to
pick
up
where
he
left
off.

Naby
Keita
is
arguably
the
only
major
signing
since
Klopp’s
arrival
that
has
not
been
a
roaring
success,
and
even
the
Guinea
midfielders’
struggles
could
be
put
down
to
his
unfortunate
injury
issues.

By
comparison,
Gary
Neville
and
Jamie
Carragher
looked
at
United’s
signings
since
2013
on
the
most
recent
edition
of
Monday
Night
Football
and
came
to
the
conclusion
that
only
two
of
the
33
players
listed
could
be
considered
successes
(Zlatan
Ibrahimovic
and
Bruno
Fernandes).

United
fans
have
been
vocal
in
recent
years
around
their
opposition
to
the
club’s
owners,
the
Glazer
family,
believing
their
own
American
custodians
taking
money
out
of
the
club
has
been
stymying
the
ability
to
have
success
on
the
pitch.

The
giants
of
English
football
that
won
13
of
the
first
21
Premier
League
titles
have
not
won
any
of
the
last
nine
since
Ferguson’s
retirement
in
2013,
and
have
only
lifted
three
trophies
in
that
period.

There
has
still
been
significant
investment
on
the
pitch,
in
fact,
far
more
than
there
has
been
at
Liverpool.

Since
FSG
arrived
in
2010,
according
to
figures
from
Transfermarkt,
with
the
addition
of
Casemiro
from
Real
Madrid,
United
have
spent
over
£1.47billion
on
players,
with
a
net
spend
of
around
£1.08bn.

Liverpool
have
also
spent
plenty,
with
£1.12bn
going
out
on
players,
but
having
made
significantly
more
than
their
rivals
in
player
sales,
have
a
net
spent
in
almost
12
years
of
just
over
£400m.

The
key
difference
has
been
the
intelligence
of
decisions
being
made
rather
than
money
being
invested,
which
is
where
United
need
to
focus
to
try
and
claw
their
way
back
towards
the
top
again.

Their
meeting
on
Monday
actually
sees
both
teams
seeking
their
first
wins
of
the
season,
but
prospects
at
Liverpool
still
seem
infinitely
better
whatever
the
outcome
at
Old
Trafford.

It
is
surely
now
time
for
United
to
start
learning
lessons
from
Liverpool.

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