Liverpool’s win at Anfield moved them 30 points clear of Manchester United. Whilst they are two of the most successful sides in history, there is a stark contrast between how both clubs have been run after the turn of the last decade.
Manchester United, under Sir Alex Ferguson, were a force to be reckoned with on and off the pitch. Not only was the silverware flooding in, but transfers looked easy and simple, and were done with the utmost efficiency knowing exactly how to sell the club to the player and their entourage.
Of course, winning trophies matters and prospective players can see such things, but Ferguson was a master at convincing the players he wanted to arrive more often than not with his enthusiasm and specific plan to turn them into better footballers.
With Liverpool flailing and finding it difficult to rise up the Premier League and win trophies, they found it almost impossible to attract the same calibre of player, with some transfers looking almost desperate.
However, since Ferguson’s reign came to an end in 2013, and with that being the Red Devils’ last league title, Man United’s transfer policy off the pitch has lacked cohesion with incoming and outgoing managers.
Liverpool, on the other hand, hit the reset button and decided to progress down the data analytics side, finding players that were not only financially attractive, but also had underlying stats that would suggest they could fit their club’s ethos perfectly.
The arrival of Jurgen Klopp has changed the game for the Reds and with his stability in place, Liverpool have shopped in the window players that are not at their peak, but able to come in – without ego – and improve not only themselves but also the team. It has been a match made in heaven with the German coach at the helm willing to put in the much-needed time to squeeze every last drop out of these footballers.
Sadio Mane and Virgil Van Dijk are prime examples. Both came from Southampton and both were met with a certain level of resistance regarding transfer fees paid and also whether they were the right quality to take the club back to the level they once were.
Mane, who cost Klopp’s side just shy of £40 million, has become one of the world’s elite players, helping to transform Liverpool and turn them into title challengers and European champions. 26 goals and assists in 29 appearances this season shows the Senegal international is in the form of his life and, barring any freak drop off, should be in contention for next year’s Ballon d’Or.
Van Dijk was the more expensive of the two, with Liverpool paying a world-record fee for a defender. While the Netherlands international was a player of considerable quality for Southampton, not many thought he would turn into the Rolls-Royce he is today and become, arguably, the best central defender in the world.
When comparing Liverpool’s transfer policy to that of Manchester United’s, there is a clear misdirection from the Red Devils during the last six years. Predominantly going for the ‘bigger names’ and extortionate wages route, players knew that a big payday awaited them at Old Trafford, which caused all kinds of division in the squad that correlated onto the pitch.
Only in the summer transfer window of 2019 did Man United look to have finally found a philosophy in what they want to do moving forward. With the arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James, the plan is to buy young, raw talents and allow them to grow and nurture while at the club: similarly to what Liverpool have been doing.
James is arguably the best bit of business the club has done over the past decade. Signed from Swansea for a meagre £15 million, the Welshman has hit the ground running and proven his worth with his incredible speed and hunger to keep going – traits that had been severely lacking in previous recruits.
While Manchester United are still some way behind Liverpool both on and off the pitch, they now, at the very least, appear to have a plan in action and a desire to stick with it. Only time will tell if they can make the ground upon their bitter rivals.