Cash Boyle explains why Liverpool is a more superior side than Manchester United and backs them for success today and in the long-term future.
Later today, Liverpool will grace the Old Trafford turf as the truly superior side. That’s a bold statement, but it can be the only conclusion when we look at the factors that set sides apart.
As a starting point, let’s look at the aims of football. What is football all about? My view is that football is about making fans happy, and offering brief respite from the drudgery of day to day life. For footballers, money, and its associated privileges offer the type of elation that working-class fans only experience every Saturday between 3-5pm (or whenever the TV rights so schedule).
The elation that defines football is felt with a 90th minute winner, a last-gasp relegation escape or simply through the telling of an underdog story. The most obvious ecstasy comes from winning trophies.
I say that pointedly, rather than arguing that entertainment equals ecstasy. I don’t want to incur the ire of United fans who will argue that Liverpool’s entertaining brand of football alone does not trump their recent trophy wins under José Mourinho. I agree with that; entertainment alone doesn’t make us the better side.
What does is the fact that we look closer to regularly winning trophies than this United side. I’ll elaborate but to put it simply: we’re both marooned in Man City’s domestic shadow & our odds of winning the Champions League better those of Manchester United. From a neutral perspective, we’re considered more likely to win the one trophy both clubs can still win.
If football is about making people happy, & happiness comes from entertainment, Liverpool are the better side. If football is about making people happy, & (as I’ve argued), happiness comes from winning trophies, then Liverpool remain the better side. The fact is that the only thing that currently makes United a better team is the one variable that is most changeable: points.
I promised elaboration, so let’s look at the factors which determine superiority.
Though I want to focus primarily on what happens on the pitch, there is no denying the intrinsic link between that and how clubs are run financially.
United are the wealthier club – that is unequivocal. According to the Football Money League, Manchester United are the world’s richest club, with Liverpool in 9th place. Last year the Reds posted revenue of £364.5 million compared to United’s £581.2 million. as per the Liverpool Echo. That’s a sizeable difference, but the ‘money’ title isn’t about money alone. It’s also about how it’s spent.
Transfer wise Liverpool are in profit. For the 2017/2018 season, Liverpool’s transfer profit is £22.4 million, exceeding the £14.1 million profit made the year before. By way of contrast, Manchester United are running at a £137.61 million loss (as of the end of the most recent transfer window). Some fans don’t care about that, and just want success – but undoubtedly the best solution is to achieve success in a financially viable way. Making such transfer splashes hasn’t yielded a vastly superior position for United – they remain a mere two points ahead.
Liverpool splurged £75 million on Virgil Van Dijk, a rare display of hypocrisy from Klopp who previously lambasted Mourinho for investing so heavily in Paul Pogba. However, if such extortionate records are set, the signings should vindicate the purchase. Virgil has.
After an inevitable settling in period, Van Dijk has become the trusted custodian we all hoped for. Since the West Brom FA Cup debacle we haven’t lost a game, and the triumvirate of Karius, Lovren and Van Dijk looks increasingly solid. Van Dijk is a player who was clearly bought for a specific purpose which he is fulfilling. You can’t say fairer than that.
Paul Pogba is having no such joy at the moment. Though not privy to the inner workings of United, there is clearly an issue of some description between Mourinho and his most expensive acquisition. Pogba is falling victim to being played out of position, and Mourinho refuses to optimise the talents of his supposed ‘best’ player by accommodating him on the left of a midfield three.
Pogba is a player who was clearly bought as a marquee signing who Mourinho won’t play in his best position. What’s worse is that United have had subsequent transfer windows to rectify this but have simply failed to do so.
I mentioned this earlier and said that it wasn’t decisive. It isn’t. But it does matter and once again Liverpool come out on top.
This season Liverpool have scored 67 goals this season in the Premier League, 28 in the Champions League. We have four players who have scored more than 10 goals (and one doesn’t even play for us anymore). Our current front three have scored 68 goals between them.
Manchester United have scored 56 goals this season, 12 in the Champions League. They have three players who have scored more than 10 goals (and one on 10). They don’t play a strict front three, but their top scorer (Lukaku) has the same number of goals as our second top scorer (Firmino). They’re both on 22 for the season.
We have created 380 chances to United’s 296 (in the Premier League). The only alarming aspect is that we have conceded 10 more goals in the same competition.
Barring the defensive differences, these statistics all favour Liverpool. They favour the progression of an entertaining side who also lose very few football matches. Liverpool’s way of playing this season has pressurised Mourinho – Klopp has demonstrated that dour football isn’t the only brand that produces success.
Anfield has also re-emerged as a cauldron of noise, a combination of the new stand and the electric football making people turn out in their droves. United, on the other hand, are currently devising initiatives to make Old Trafford more exciting. That Mourinho has criticised Old Trafford for being quiet is demonstrative of their predicament at that home ground, which admittedly does belie an exceptional home record.
I’ll keep this one brief. Liverpool have the youngest average squad in the Premier League, with an average age of 25.9 years. Manchester United have the 12th youngest average squad in the Premier League, with an average age of 27.1 years. The difference isn’t huge, granted, but once again it points to Liverpool’s prioritisation of a long term strategy.
Liverpool have a manager who has committed his future until 2022 – crucially he is a manager known for honouring his contracts and staying 7 years at each club he has managed.
Manchester United have a manager who has committed his future until 2020 – crucially he is a manager known for leaving his clubs mid-contract (either by choice or by force). I know which contract extension I have more faith in.
If the above components make up a better side, Liverpool are on top of their Mancunian rivals. Manchester United may have been so distracted by City overlapping them that they neglected to notice Liverpool slalom past them in the rearview mirror.
United may be two points ahead, but that can be overturned today. What can’t be overturned is that Liverpool are the more financially prudent, entertaining club to watch with a clearer long-term plan.
Our more youthful personnel can effect that plan which will surely yield trophies. Trophies are what make fans happy and the happiness of fans is what football is all about. Liverpool have already achieved the latter and are agonisingly close to the former. This game against Manchester United is but another step on that journey.