Once upon a time, the Merseyside derby was a title decider – this season it has gone a long way towards making an impact at both ends of the table. Jurgen Klopp emerged with his broad grin intact while Frank Lampard was left with the wolf very much at his door – or was that just his players crying wolf every time a Liverpool player went near them? Either way, it was another highlight of the football could do without VAR – just as the Champions League looks set to do without Manchester United for yet another season of the post-Fergie era. Express Sport’s Matthew Dunn looks at all the latest Premier League talking points.
SUBS MORE LIKE U-BOATS FOR JURGEN
Still it is setting itself up as the greatest title race of a generation. And if anybody still doubts whether it is a battle between two very effective teams or a clash of two managerial titans then they need look no further than the hour mark of Sunday’s Merseyside derby.
Everton were “doing a job” on their Merseyside rivals and with Liverpool clinging on in the title race anyway, they looked in danger of falling off Manchester City’s shoulders completely.
Then came the masterstroke – throw on two more strikers to risk upsetting the balance of the team. Instead, it took just two minutes for one of them, Divock Origi, to upset the balance of the Everton defence to send Liverpool on their way.
Any manager who can use his subs to such destructive glory as this is bound to add a layer of intrigue to an already enthralling contest. It is the perfect counter-point to Pep Guardiola’s more holistic approach to improving standards in his squad to bolster their resilience that way.
Form book aside, this was a huge hurdle for Liverpool, and crossing it so comfortably in the end will send a huge message to the Etihad. And never believe Guardiola when he says it is not about the managers.
MANCHESTER UNITED’S COWARDLY CUSTODY BATTLE
Normally the row at clubs is that too many players want the responsibility of the penalty-taking duties. At the same time, it is a measure of United’s crisis that when the award came at a crucial point of the 3-1 defeat to Arsenal, the battle was all about who didn’t have to step up to the plate.
Tragic personal circumstances perhaps excuse Cristiano Ronaldo at this point and any supportive dressing room worth its salt would have pulled together to protect the Portuguese from the spotlight this week of all weeks.
Instead it was left to Bruno Fernandes, nervous already due to his previous fluff, to be left holding the ball when the proverbial music stopped.
Inevitably he missed and the chance to pull back into the game disappeared. Erik ten Hag’s job just keeps on getting harder and harder…