Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Rodgers' rampaging Liverpool moving towards a top four finish

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool exchanges words with Robin van Persie of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on September 01, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Steven Gerrard of Liverpool exchanges words with Robin van Persie of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on September 01, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

It wasn't a triumphant celebration. Brendan Rodgers didn't do a Neil Lennon and run down the touchline. He didn't dance around like Ian Holloway either.

As the final whistle blew, a fist pump from the Liverpool manager was short, sharp and understated before he shook hands with his opposite number David Moyes and then quietly made his way down the Anfield tunnel.

Inside though the Carnlough native's heart would have been jumping out of his shirt after what was his biggest win to date as Liverpool manager.

There were no trophies at stake, but this 1-0 victory over Manchester United was more tangible evidence that under the growing influence of the Ulsterman at Anfield, Liverpool are very much on the right track.

They have won all three of their Premier League games this season by the same scoreline – a single goal from Daniel Sturridge doing the trick on each occasion.

And they sit proudly at the top of the table as the only team with a 100 per cent record.

It's a far cry from last season when Liverpool did not win any of their first five league games... the fifth of those a 2-1 defeat to Sir Alex Ferguson's United.

Brendan was taking stick from fans, pundits and ex-Liverpool players. He has brought the team a long way since then.

And he'll be the first to tell you that there is still a long way to go.

But with every passing match, it is clear he has the ability, tactical acumen and management skills to take Liverpool forward and, whisper it, perhaps even long term make the Reds a real force again.

Rodgers has had a testing summer dealing with the spoiled baby antics of Luis Suarez, but he has come out the stronger for it, showing the Uruguayan who is boss, and his players have responded with character building wins over Stoke, Aston Villa, Notts County in the League Cup and yesterday against Manchester United.

In his managerial career Rodgers has always wanted his teams to play with "steel and style". There was more of the former than the latter after Sturridge's early goal, but in a fiercely contested encounter like this, that was no bad thing.

Martin Skrtel, Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson all did the dirty work supremely well, closing down, tackling, hustling and taking hits.

The work ethic was exceptional. Rodgers is renowned for sending out sides who are brilliant on the ball – yesterday most of Liverpool's best work came when they didn't have it!

There is a togetherness building again. They are nowhere near title contenders, but are a genuine top four threat.

Rodgers will wisely recruit a few more players for his squad today and United boss Moyes MUST do the same after picking up just four points out of a possible nine to start his new era.

Moyes badly needs fresh blood, if only to inject more life into a side strangely lacking authority in attack at present.

A creative midfielder or two is needed to offer Robin van Persie more service and perhaps a high class winger as well.

It makes a change, but right now Liverpool fans are happier than United's.

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