Brendan Rodgers will turn it around for Liverpool, insists Michael O'Neill
Brendan Rodgers will turn things around at Liverpool and could still lead the club to European glory this season, according to Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill.
After being hailed a Messiah last season for almost leading the Anfield outfit to the league title, Ulsterman Rodgers has come under increasing scrutiny this term due to poor Premier League results and a Champions League exit at the group stages.
Liverpool now enter the much maligned Europa League, though unlike many others, O'Neill believes that may actually prove beneficial.
"Liverpool will have a period in the season when things fall into place and I still believe they are capable of challenging for a top four position," says O'Neill.
"And being in the Europa League might prove to be a better scenario for Liverpool in the long run because going into the last 16 of the Champions League they would have been handed a really tough draw and probably been knocked out at that stage, whereas they have a better chance of going further in the Europa League and even winning it, which would mean qualification for next season's Champions League. That's a massive carrot. I genuinely feel Liverpool could win the Europa League. It would be great to see Brendan do that."
Asked about some fans losing faith in Rodgers recently, O'Neill stated: "That's the nature of the game now. People forget where Liverpool were when Brendan took over. They also point at all the money spent in the summer and the players brought in and say why didn't he sign a £50 million striker. The reality is that a £50 million striker may not have wanted to go to Liverpool.
"A lot of things are being said right now about him but Brendan is tough and I have no doubt he will get it right.
"You don't get to where Brendan is as a coach and not be a tough character. He has worked 20 years to get where he is. I'm sure there have been a lot of setbacks over those 20 years and times when he has wondered if he would get to where he wanted to in the coaching world. You are talking about someone who started right at the bottom and is now managing Liverpool.
"A lot of coaches get the opportunity to go straight in to a big club and sometimes they don't always deserve it. Nobody could say that Brendan Rodgers hasn't worked hard to get to where he is and when you go through that sort of career pathway I think you are pretty well equipped to deal with anything, so I would have no worries about Brendan being able to cope with the criticism coming his way at present.
"The most important thing in a situation like this is not to lose the players. I don't think there is any danger that will happen at Liverpool with Brendan. I have seen first hand how the relationship is and how the club is run on a daily basis.
"What Liverpool need is a lift off for their season. There is responsibility on the players to deliver too, Sunday will be big for Brendan and the team because with the rivalry between Liverpool and United a good result at Old Trafford and some of Liverpool's recent problems will be forgotten."