Not that long ago I was writing about how Rafa baffled me- and in no way is this intended as a retraction of that sentiment. In fact, I think the last few weeks have proven this. But what on earth has happened at Liverpool since that hammering of Real Madrid at Anfield (I ask with my best rhetorical voice)?
Since that game, Liverpool have scored 13 goals, and conceded just 1. Andrea Dossena also scored a goal which made me feel every bit as good as when Philippe Albert strode forward and lobbed Peter Schmeichel from 30 yards at St James’s.
The obvious answer to this conundrum would be that Gerrard and Torres are starting regularly alongside one another (having done so just 9 times before the Madrid game). And if you have what I would call currently the two best (central) forward players in world football starting, Liverpool will hurt anybody. Simple- it’s been a fundamental part of what Rafa has build his system on.
The other positive aspect of this all is that the back four seem settled, and the midfield trio of Lucas, Macsherano, and Alonso (particularly the latter two) look solid when called upon. Now I come to think of it, there’s every reason for Alonso to be up for football writer’s player of the year- particularly after the summer. But added to this, other more weak parts of Rafa’s side (namely the wide men) have scored of late, which makes the garden all the more rosier.
I think we can all agree that the title is still well and truly in United’s grasp- it’s theirs to lose, and the international break has fallen at an ideal time. However, Liverpool have broken the perceived invincibility that United had at home. And that’s crucial. Whatsmore, Fulham have also shown others that beating United isn’t totally out of the question.
There’s no doubt about it, United’s side have frailties- not that Vidic, Evra, Ferdinand, O’Shea are bad players, but sides can get at them, pin them back, and not let them stroll to wins. This, for me, is the crucial point coming from the last month or so. The big issue is that others, such as Liverpool and Chelsea, capitalise on this moving forward- particularly over the summer and next year.
Longer term, though, we all know that if Stevie or Nando pick up knocks this week, there’s going to be some serious fallibility to the “title’s back on” argument (which it still certainly is).