In the weirdly developing Premier League season, Liverpool are still alive and well in the hunt for a Champions League trophy after a 4-1 drubbing of Stoke City. Manchester United, despite losing at Tottenham 3-0, are also in the picture.
And it’s amazing to see the contrast between the two huge rivals. Liverpool, despite being only 8th in the league table, aren’t just in the hunt for the fourth ticket to the Champions League (if they win their match in hand they’ll be six points behind 4th) but have an optimistic vibe to them, thanks to Jurgen Klopp, but also the return from injury of Daniel Sturridge, the emergence of Divock Origi and the feeling that they’re only two or three signings away from being in the thick of it. The thick of it and who belongs in that club has seems to changed.
And maybe in some revenge fashion, Liverpool didn’t feel any mercy against Stoke, playing with Jakob Haugaard at goal. Moreno scored a splendid strike in the first half that wouldn’t have gone in against a better goalkeeper. Despite equalizing on another set piece mistake by the Liverpool defense (just like all season long, including their 1-1 draw in Dortmund), the match was all about the home side.
Sturridge scored from a wide open header and Origi, who has been fantastic when playing next to another forward in the last two months, added a brace. From a raw, teenage talent who barely had a place in the roster earlier this season he’s establishing himself as someone the lineup won’t be complete without at the critical stages of the season.
In Northern London, Tottenham did what they could to keep the pressure on Leicester, although it’s still seven points. The depressing, boring, defensive and zero-creativity bearing Manchester United team did keep things even for 70 minutes. But then Dele Alli scored, followed by Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela. By the 77th minute, it was 3-0. Not just over, but a humiliation.
Shockingly, United are still quite capable of finishing in the top 4, which will be Louis van Gaal’s way of saying F U to anyone who criticized him, suggesting he was given such a difficult task at a club with meager capabilities and ambitions. Arsene Wenger has been a master of making fourth look like an achievement for years. By their standards, this season is almost like their Invincibles campaign from 2004.
With 53 points, Manchester United are just four points behind Manchester City at 4th. Arsenal are third with 59 points. Tottenham have 65 but have played more matches. So have Leicester, at the top, with 72 points. An incredible story. Maybe the biggest one in the Premier League since the 1990’s in terms of unlikely teams capturing the headlines and in this case, the silverware.
And there’s one more angle before we put this article to bed. The managers. Liverpool have a German rockstar orchestrating things on the pitch and with the fans in the stands. Manchester United have a tired, bored and stubborn Dutchman who finds more meaning to his writings in the notebook than what actually happens on the pitch. Tottenham have an Argentine genius-type gentleman who’ll be working at Real Madrid or PSG in two years tops. And there’s Leicester, with a manager holding back his tears, knowing he’s part of incredible history.