How Liverpool got their groove back and why Manchester United should follow their lead

By Sports Desk August 21, 2022

English football had a very different landscape in October 2010 when Fenway Sports Group won a court case to buy Liverpool.

The Reds had not won a league title in over 20 years, had lifted just two trophies in the previous nine, and had finished seventh in the Premier League the previous season.

Meanwhile, Manchester United would go on to win their 12th Premier League title at the end of the 2010-11 season, their 19th league win at the time, taking them one ahead of Liverpool overall.

The Merseyside club had allowed itself to drift and needed to learn lessons from their fiercest rivals.

When Tom Hicks and George Gillett bought Liverpool from David Moores in 2007, they brought with them promise of investment that should have enabled the club to finally catch up with United.

The Red Devils had timed their period of dominance perfectly, with the birth of the Premier League seeing an explosion in money and interest in the English game, and the combination of ambition, stability under Alex Ferguson and numerous smart decisions on and off the pitch cemented United as leaders domestically, while Liverpool struggled to keep up.

However, despite promises of a new stadium and backing of then manager Rafael Benitez, with Gillett famously saying: "If Rafa said he wanted to buy Snoogy Doogy, we would back him", initial investment dropped off quickly, before it became apparent that the American duo were more interested in taking money out of the club than putting it in.

A dramatic few days at the High Court in London essentially kept Liverpool from going under as Hicks and Gillett were forced to sell up, and a bright new dawn appeared to have arrived with the purchase by FSG (then known as New England Sports Ventures).

Having successfully turned around the fortunes of the Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball, Liverpool's new owners set about trying to put in place the building blocks to do the same in English football.

Struggling manager Roy Hodgson was swiftly dismissed and replaced by club legend Kenny Dalglish, while Damien Comolli was appointed as director of football strategy, tasked with using the fabled 'moneyball' approach made famous in baseball, to the extent it was later made into a Hollywood film starring Brad Pitt.

It was indicative of the hit-and-miss nature of the approach in its early stages that the first two major investments were Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, with one an undoubted success and the other a spectacular failure.

The strategy was adjusted after their first pre-season transfer window when significant money was spent on players who, on paper, were undervalued, but proved to still be overpriced in Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam, while a young Jordan Henderson had too much expected of him too soon.

Initial promise under Dalglish disappeared in the new owners' first full season in charge, with an eighth-place finish in the league, though reaching both domestic cup finals was not to be sniffed at, winning the EFL Cup against Cardiff City.

Dalglish always felt like a short-term stop gap to appease the fans and give FSG time to get to know the sport better, and their appointment of Brendan Rodgers in 2013 felt like the first that truly had their stamp on it.

Rodgers implemented a new style of play, and in his second season, very nearly won that elusive Premier League title, but fell agonisingly short.

Losing Suarez to Barcelona at the end of that campaign did not help matters, but worse still, the club's inability to replace him even slightly adequately – buying Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli – set them back further still.


When Liverpool lost 6-1 away to Stoke City on the final day of the 2014-15 season, it felt like all the hard work up until then had been undone, and on top of all that, club legend Steven Gerrard was retiring.

FSG had set up a transfer committee of sorts, with the idea that several heads were better than one, recruiting scouts Barry Hunter and Dave Fallows from Manchester City, and appointing Michael Edwards as technical director.

Rodgers did not seem to like working under those conditions, and a bizarre compromise appeared to be made in 2015 whereby the transfer committee would get to decide on one signing, such as Roberto Firmino, while Rodgers was allowed to decide on another, such as Christian Benteke.

It became apparent early in the 2015-16 season that this would not work, and so Rodgers was replaced by Jurgen Klopp, the man FSG had wanted before the Northern Irishman only to be turned down by the then Borussia Dortmund head coach.

Since then, everyone at Liverpool has pulled in the same direction, which has led to almost every major decision made being a correct one.

It has also caused the trophy cabinet to fill up again, with a Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup all being collected since the start of the 2018-19 season.

Their hit rate in the transfer market has been the envy of all major clubs, with the likes of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Alisson all coming in to significantly strengthen the team in recent years.

There has also been efficient continuity behind the scenes, with Edwards promoted to sporting director in 2016 and overseeing so much success in transfer dealings, and his exit at the end of last season saw Julian Ward replace him, having worked under Edwards, being prepared to pick up where he left off.

Naby Keita is arguably the only major signing since Klopp’s arrival that has not been a roaring success, and even the Guinea midfielders' struggles could be put down to his unfortunate injury issues.


By comparison, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher looked at United’s signings since 2013 on the most recent edition of Monday Night Football and came to the conclusion that only two of the 33 players listed could be considered successes (Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bruno Fernandes).

United fans have been vocal in recent years around their opposition to the club's owners, the Glazer family, believing their own American custodians taking money out of the club has been stymying the ability to have success on the pitch.

The giants of English football that won 13 of the first 21 Premier League titles have not won any of the last nine since Ferguson's retirement in 2013, and have only lifted three trophies in that period.

There has still been significant investment on the pitch, in fact, far more than there has been at Liverpool.

Since FSG arrived in 2010, according to figures from Transfermarkt, with the addition of Casemiro from Real Madrid, United have spent over £1.47billion on players, with a net spend of around £1.08bn.

Liverpool have also spent plenty, with £1.12bn going out on players, but having made significantly more than their rivals in player sales, have a net spent in almost 12 years of just over £400m.

The key difference has been the intelligence of decisions being made rather than money being invested, which is where United need to focus to try and claw their way back towards the top again.

Their meeting on Monday actually sees both teams seeking their first wins of the season, but prospects at Liverpool still seem infinitely better whatever the outcome at Old Trafford.

It is surely now time for United to start learning lessons from Liverpool.

Related items

  • Jurgen Klopp not worried about Liverpool legacy but wants fitting finale Jurgen Klopp not worried about Liverpool legacy but wants fitting finale

    Jurgen Klopp has insisted he is not worried about what his legacy at Liverpool might be – but he wants to end the season by giving fans something more to celebrate.

    As Klopp goes into the final weeks of his reign, having announced he will step down at the end of the season, Liverpool remain locked in a tight three-way fight at the top of the Premier League as they prepare for Sunday’s match against Crystal Palace.

    This season’s Carabao Cup is already in the cabinet, but their Europa League hopes took a potentially fatal blow in Thursday’s 3-0 home defeat against Atalanta in the first leg of their quarter-final tie – something Klopp wants to turn into a positive.

    “For me I’ve had enough parades and parties, it was never about that and it will never be (about that) but I would love to give the people the opportunity to celebrate something special and I think it would be right as well,” Klopp told Sky News.

    “I’m still happy we are still in that fight. I want to make sure we really go for it. Sometimes life and football are the same – you need a proper smash to realise why you do what you do and we got that smash and we will use it.”

    But asked what it would mean for his legacy, Klopp added: “I don’t care… would that make me a great manager? I never considered myself a great manager. Never, ever in my life.

    “I am surprised until this day that people see me that way, that’s 100 per cent true but I accept it that people see me like that.

    “What’s important is that the Liverpool people are happy with what we did that’s the only important thing…

    “On my gravestone, I don’t want, ‘here is one of the most successful managers on the planet’, you are still lying three feet under. No, not for me. I want to be remembered as somebody who helped people through life.”

    Klopp, 56, announced in January that he would step down at the end of the season, having said he was “running out of energy”, and plans a break from football.

    “There’s a few things (Klopp’s wife) Ulla told me – I have to learn cooking and a dance class,” he said. “I said you don’t want me to have a break because if I do that I will start working after four weeks again! I should learn cooking probably so I can at least make some breakfast or whatever.

    “This will be the first time in my life where I don’t have a real idea of what I will do and that’s exactly what I want.”

    Asked about his cooking repertoire, he added: “No. Hot water, tea, does that count? During Covid I did scrambled eggs but after that I forgot it again.

    “I was raised in the Black Forest with two sisters, the only reason I knew where the kitchen was because the smell came from there! I’m pretty useless in private life.”

    Before then, the popular Klopp can expect a big sendoff from Liverpool no matter how the final weeks of the campaign play out.

    He has one obvious selection for the soundtrack, and one more obscure choice.

    “It’s Liverpool so it would be The Beatles 100 per cent, they could easily choose the song because I love them all,” he said.

    “Actually, the band that is alive is Die Toten Hosen, the translation is The Dead Pants. It’s a punk rock band and the lead singer Campino is a good friend of mine and the biggest LFC supporter on the planet – that would be the biggest day of his life.

    “They sing in German so no one would understand but that’s fine.”

  • It would help – Erik ten Hag hopes Man Utd sign proven goalscorer in the summer It would help – Erik ten Hag hopes Man Utd sign proven goalscorer in the summer

    Erik ten Hag has said Manchester United signing a proven goalscorer this summer “would help” – while stressing the striking options with which they entered the current season “should have been enough”.

    Having last term finished third in the Premier League and won the Carabao Cup in their first campaign under Ten Hag’s management, United have subsequently underwhelmed.

    With seven games to go in the league, they lie sixth, 11 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, as well as fifth-placed Aston Villa, and have the lowest goals-for tally in the top 10 with 45.

    Twenty-one-year-old striker Rasmus Hojlund has netted 13 times in all competitions since being signed last summer to join an attack also featuring Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

    Rashford has eight United goals to his name for 2023-24, and Martial – sidelined since groin surgery in January, with Ten Hag unsure if he will be available again before the end of the season – two.

    Asked at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s league trip to Bournemouth how vital it was that United sign a proven hitman this summer, Ten Hag said: “I think it would help.

    “In this plan we constructed we should have had enough goals. You count on goals from Rashy – last season he scored 30. You count on goals from Martial – in my first season he played very well and also in very important games he had a high impact on our performances.

    “And then bringing a goalscorer like Rasmus Hojlund in, it should have been enough goals.”

    Sir Jim Ratcliffe became minority owner at United in February, taking control of football operations.

    A change was confirmed this week as the club on Tuesday announced John Murtough was stepping down as football director, and United are looking to bring in Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth and Southampton director of football Jason Wilcox.

    Ten Hag said with regard to the summer: “We are working in the background on plans with scouting. We are working on our plan, the plan is ready, but it has to execute, and I trust the new ownership that they will work as quick as possible and bring new good structures and that they can execute.

    “We have good plans, I think also with quality players. You see now about recruitment: (Andre) Onana is doing very well, Rasmus Hojlund, everyone is seeing his big talent and potential. (Lisandro) Martinez, everyone was hugely happy with him, and there are others.

    “So the recruitment is good. But if they (new directors) have even better ideas, we are always open. If you have options but they come with better options we are open.

    “But we have a way we want to play, so we know our profiles, so it has to match the profiles we want.”

    As well as the changes to the club hierarchy, the season has seen United – currently assessing Rashford, as well as midfielder Scott McTominay ahead of the Bournemouth game – hit by considerable injury problems, while there have also been other issues involving players such as that which led to Jadon Sancho leaving for Borussia Dortmund on loan in January.

    Asked about the challenges, Ten Hag said: “The thing is, you have to be realistic – as a manager, it’s like a minister, you don’t have anything in your hands but at the end of the day, and that is what you have to accept, you are responsible for everything. And I take that.

    “Some things… it just happens, and then you have to make the best out of it.”

    He added: “This business, this industry, is about results and many see only the results, but you have to see also what’s underneath. I see underneath and I see the potential. I see the direction. So I’m positive in the way we want to go, and we will be successful.”

  • Erik ten Hag emphasises need to replace Man Utd football director John Murtough Erik ten Hag emphasises need to replace Man Utd football director John Murtough

    Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag says he will miss the support of departed football director John Murtough and has emphasised the importance of replacing him.

    United on Tuesday announced Murtough was stepping down from the post, having spent almost 11 years at the club in a variety of roles.

    The Red Devils, with Ineos now in control of football operations after Sir Jim Ratcliffe became minority owner in February, are looking to bring in Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth and Southampton director of football Jason Wilcox.

    Asked about Murtough leaving at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth, Ten Hag said: “You mention the new season – it’s very important, the new ownership is working on this and we have to replace this function to go into the new season.

    “For the moment, of course I miss his support, but he moved on, there has been choices made. We work very good together, so I say thank you to John and I wish him all the best for the future.

    “Also I work with the new ownership very good and closely together and that will not change. It doesn’t have an impact on the way I can work here.

    “Conditions were perfect and are still perfect, so I’m happy with that, but we want to set the right conditions to be successful.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.