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Liverpool's ruthless summer that truly knocked Manchester United off their perch – Liverpool Echo, Liverpoolecho.co.uk

Liverpool's ruthless summer that truly knocked Manchester United off their perch – Liverpool Echo, Liverpoolecho.co.uk


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As Liverpool put the finishing touches to a 4-0 rout of Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield, Manchester United, a short trip down the M 62, cemented their second-place finish against Watford.

It is May 13, 2018.

Liverpool’s starting line-up includes Loris Karius – who, unwittingly, is less than a month away from a night in Kiev that will change his career forever – and Dominic Solanke.

Solanke scored what remains his only senior goal in professional football that day, completing a £ 19 m move to Bournemouth six months later.

United, meanwhile, despite finishing a record 19 – points behind champions Manchester City, look to be gradually improving under Jose Mourinho.

How Manchester United are planning to hurt Liverpool without Paul Pogba and David de GeaHERE

The Portuguese boss had improved four places on last season’s effort of sixth while new signing Romelu Lukaku had crashed home an impressive 27 goals in all competitions.

With Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba also shining – admittedly in patches – the six-point gap in the final league table betweenLiverpooland United seemed great.

Not that Jurgen Klopp’s side were on a downward spiral, by any means.

Liverpool were, of course, preparing for a Champions League final showdown with Real Madrid and did inflict one of Manchester City’s two Premier League defeats.

But true, era-defining change was on the horizon.

To the tune of around £ 165 m, Liverpool spent more than they ever have in a single transfer window following the close of the campaign.

In came Alisson, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri to join a rank already considerably strengthened by the arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January 2018.

Alisson Becker, Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita

Alisson Becker, Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita

United, on the other hand, plumped for a considerably more low-key summer.

Fred – a £ 52 m arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk – was joined by teenage Diego Dalot and back-up goalkeeper Lee Grant.

While nobody could have predicted Fred’s struggles in England – nor just how crucial Alisson and Fabinho would become to Klopp – it could now be the summer that truly knocked Manchester United from their perch that Sir Alex Ferguson famously coined.

Since making their outlay in the market, Liverpool have lost just one Premier League game, won the Champions League and put themselves in pole position to win their first league title since 1990.

United have lost 13, sit 12 in the table and have had to settle for a place in the Europa League this term, limping to a goalless draw with AZ Alkmaar at the start of the month.

Mourinho, it seems, was happy with his squad at Old Trafford during that summer in a similar vein to Klopp’s ease at not spending big in the recently-closed window.

But while the German has been justified by a perfect start to the domestic calendar, Mourinho was out of a job by December, leaving a fractured dressing room and a club lacking any form of identity.

Man United chief speaks out on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer future ahead of Liverpool clashHERE

Fabinho took a short while to get up to speed and Shaqiri, still, has struggled to find his true calling at Anfield but all four transfers made in 2018 have repaid the manager’s faith.

Fred, Dalot an d Grant, meanwhile, have had little to no impact and have all been part of United’s continuing malaise.

It is, of course, a warning too.

United would never have envisioned how the next 18 – months would play out in the same way that even Klopp, in his wildest dreams, could not have foreseen Liverpool’s stomping return to the elite.

But Liverpool acted quickest, were ruthless in the market and have a charismatic manager who has brought everything together with the help of key figures behind the scenes.

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When the two sides meet on Sunday, the powers-that-be at Old Trafford will be forgiven for casting an envious eye over Liverpool’s starting XI.

Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho were both rumored targets for the Red Devils but were ultimately part of the revolution on Merseyside.

“My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f ***** g perch,” Sir Alex Ferguson once said.

It’s been a wide-ranging process for Klopp lasting four years.

Hopefully it culminates at the end of this season with Liverpool back on top of the champions of England.

But maybe, when both clubs look back on events since the departure of Ferguson, the summer of 2018 will stand out as the moment United were truly knocked from their own perch.

It remains to be seen when, in the shadows of Liverpool and City, they will return.

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