OpinionJohn Aldridge

Aldo: Liverpool on the rise as Manchester United crisis deepens

John AldridgeBy John Aldridge
Jurgen Klopp celebrates his team's second goal in their 2-0 win
Jurgen Klopp celebrates his team's second goal in their 2-0 win

WE SAW two teams heading in opposite directions in Thursday night's one-sided Europa League game at Anfield.

Liverpool's comprehensive 2-0 defeat of Man United in the first leg of the Europa League tie highlighted a change in fortunes for a club that has merely become one of the pack since Alex Ferguson stepped down as their manager.

Success came easily to United when Fergie was at the helm, but his departure has cre­ated a transformation that will be hard for United fans to come to terms with.

Sorry Man United sup­porters, but your club are just the same as the rest of us now.

Managers will come and go at Old Trafford from this point forward and the sustained success that became the norm is a glorious ideal from the past.

Of course, as a Liverpool man, I took pleasure in seeing United given a pasting the other night and the evening was completed for me by Fergie getting dog's abuse from start to finish from the Anfield faithful.

On a night when United fans were heard chanting sick songs to taunt the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough, the home crowd relentlessly sang a song citing a com­ment in Ferguson's book, as he suggested United fans were "s***e".

Quite why anyone goes to a football match to sing songs about a disaster that cost the lives of 96 football lovers is beyond me and while United fans are not alone in doing this by any means, they let themselves down badly at Anfield.

The abuse he was getting was probably the least of Ferguson's worries, as he sat watching a United team in real trouble.

Louis van Gaal admitted after the game that his United players were intimidated by the atmosphere at Anfield and while his confession sur­prised a few, I wasn't shocked at all.

The noise generated for the Unit­ed game was incredible and Van Gaal's side were not the first – and won't be the last – to crumble in the cauldron of a European night at Anfield.

I have seen much better teams than United struggle to deal with the noise that echoes around all four sides of the stadium and it certainly helps the home side to put pressure on the opposition.

Not that Liverpool needed too much help to beat United, as they were pretty awful from start to finish.

You look at the impact Klopp has made in half a season at Liverpool and it shows how a top manager can get a team moving in the right direction if he is given the space to do his job.

I'm sure the United hierarchy look at Klopp and wish they had him as their manager right now because the guy they have put their faith in clearly looks to have lost his touch at the back end of his career.

I cannot believe that Van Gaal will still be United manager next season and when you look at their team, there are not many players who give the opposition too many concerns.

Anthony Martial is a decent young player and is their one bright hope for the future, but I was chatting to Robbie Fowler after the game and he suggested United needed 11 new players this summer.

David de Gea is clearly one of the best goal keepers in the world, but Robbie suspects he will be off to Real Madrid sooner rather than later.

Anyway, enough of Manchester United's problems. Let's focus on the probable winners of this all-English Europa League tie.

Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring his side's second in the 2-0 home victory

Football fans of all persuasions have been enchanted by Klopp's charisma this season and we are starting to see his impact shining through at Liverpool now.

It has been easy to see Klopp's ways being injected into Liverpool's play­ers in recent weeks and what we saw against United was a team playing in the way he demands.

His style requires players to be incredibly fit and to press the opposition from start to finish, which we have seen in fleeting bursts from Liverpool since the German's arrival.

The hamstring problems that affected some of the players in the first few months of his reign were a by-product of his attempts to get the players up to speed, but we have come through that phase now.

Liverpool are finishing games stronger than their opponents and this is a sign of Klopp's ideas coming to the fore.

We also saw a side that had more desire to get the win than United, which is worrying for the opposition but wonderful for Klopp.

Some of the players seem to have been inspired by their defeat in the Capital One Cup final against Man City, with their eagerness to make something of this season shown with their display on Thursday.

This tie is not over yet and United have to perform better in the second leg, but you would think a Liverpool goal at Old Trafford would pave the way to the quarter-finals.

Of course, the prize of a place in the Champions League is up for grabs for the winners of this com­petition, but that is still a distant dream in my eyes.

I stand by my belief that Liverpool are not good enough to win the Europa League, but their belief will grow if they avoid a powerful Borussia Dortmund side in the quar­ter-finals and you never know how this unpredictable season will end.

A Europa League final in Switzer­land on May 18 would be very nice, but there are a lot of hurdles to leap over before we start believing that is possible.

At least Liverpool can dare to dream again and Klopp should take much of the credit for that.