Presently all thoughts concerning Manchester United are heavily informed by their seven-goal mauling at Anfield.
It was a seismic result that made a mockery of the online betting odds beforehand and threatens to undo the good work that has been implemented at the club since the arrival of Erik Ten Hag.
Or at least that’s how some are understandably interpreting a staggering afternoon that produced a staggering score-line.
Others insist it was just a very, very bad 45 minutes spent at the office.
However their season’s nadir is viewed though it doesn’t detract from the fact that United are recovering extremely well from a sustained period of struggle that followed the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.
Across a tough and drawn-out decade, a behemoth of English football lost their way, misplacing their identity in the process, and – as so often happens when a big club freefalls – a litany of managers ultimately pulled them in different directions, all of which led to under-achievement.
In just nine short months the Dutchman has restored order at Old Trafford, that’s his most fundamental feat to date, before we even get to the Reds’ vastly improved performances.
By ruthlessly rooting out the disruptive influences in the dressing room and getting the rest of his players fully invested in his ways he has ensured that United are united again. All pulling in the same direction. All singing from his hymn sheet.
And naturally, given the quality of individuals within the squad, when this transpires, more wins occur than defeats, but the club’s renaissance goes far beyond eradicating abject showings against inferior opponents.
Their recruitment has been excellent, bringing in Lisandro Martinez at the back who was exactly the kind of combative centre-half they needed, a player who fronts up to, and clearly relishes, a challenge.
In midfield, Casemiro has stamped his class on an engine room that used to hopelessly flail at times under the limitations of a ‘McFred’ pairing.
In the attacking third the jury remains out on United’s £82m purchase of Antony but to compensate for this – cliché incoming, and a bad one at that – the stunning rejuvenation of Marcus Rashford has been like a new signing for United and the coaching of Ten Hag has to take some credit for that.
Across all competitions, the England striker has scored 30% of his side’s impressive haul, and moreover provides a genuine threat.
We could go further of course, highlighting the dramatic improvements seen in numerous players who looked to be previously coasting, while United are tactically flexible now, and crucially are capable of executing each mandate to a high standard.
From this, their form going into a shocking collapse on Merseyside amounted to the second best in the top-flight from two games in. From this, we can deduce that Manchester United are becoming a force to be reckoned with once more.
It will be fascinating come the summer to see where Ten Hag’s emerging creation is priced in the Premier League betting to win next season’s title. It is reasonable to expect them pitched among the favourites.
And that reveals infinitely more than a heavy loss to a hated rival.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*
FIRST PUBLISHED: 8th March 2023