Liverpool Will Win the Champions League Before Manchester United

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01:  Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal with Manager Brendan Rodgers during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on September 01, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

For far too long, Liverpool supporters have had to make do with merely the chase of the Champions League, rather than actually competing in it.

Britain's most successful club on the European stage, Liverpool most recently won ol' big ears back in 2005, but for almost half a decade thereafter were one of the most consistent and feared clubs around the Continent.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 21:  John Arne Riise of Liverpool (6) watches his shot hit the back of the net for their second goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Barcelona and Liverpool at the Nou Camp Stadium on Februa
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

With the likes of Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard at the top of their game, the Reds travelled under Rafa Benitez to the likes of the San Siro, the Santiago Bernabeu and the Camp Nou—and conquered them all.

Those times have passed, though, and now Liverpool have much work to do to take their place among those heady names once more.

In 2013-14, Brendan Rodgers has led his side to second place in the Premier League at almost the halfway stage; another 22 games at the same level of consistency and intensity, and perhaps the fanbase can finally rest easy in the knowledge that its side will be competing at the top level again next term.

Given the uncertainty, the upheaval and the inconsistency from the sides around them, Liverpool will not get a better chance to re-establish themselves as one of the Premier League's top four teams.

But if they do?

If Liverpool do finish in the top four, it's likely to be at the expense of perhaps their greatest rivals of recent times, Manchester United. While Liverpool have taken several seasons to overcome their malaise and begin to re-establish themselves as a contender for the top four, you suspect United will be able to absorb a season of (relative) failure rather more easily.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on September 01, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Li
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Success has been ingrained in the staff and the players of the club over a period of 20 years or more, and though United look fallible and beatable right now, it's likely they'll bounce back quickly.

However, Europe has not always been their friend, or indeed the scene where they perform to their utmost ability—whereas Liverpool have often performed above themselves in the competition in the relatively recent past.

Rodgers will have to restructure his squad a little if the Reds make it back into the Champions League, to allow the team to compete on two fronts, but the style of play Liverpool are imposing more and more often domestically is also one which will allow them success in Continental terms: pressing, possession and quick penetration.

Sitting second in the Premier League table, it's inevitable that questions will eventually arise about whether Liverpool can stunningly and suddenly be considered title challengers, especially if they pull another impressive win out of their next two away games and maintain their home form.

However, the league run is so long and so demanding that it is probable that Liverpool's squad will be caught short in that regard at some point, compared to the likes of Manchester City or even Arsenal.

Consider that Liverpool have Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, the loaned Victor Moses and Jordan Henderson to operate in their attacking roles behind or beside the strikers. Arsenal can call upon Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, even without resorting to out-of-position players or the promising Serge Gnabry.

Such depth is still some way off for Liverpool, and that will have to be redressed over time.

The Champions League, though, is a competition where a settled XI (or 15-16, more probably) can flourish, the manager can prepare for specific home and away challenges and, for Liverpool, playing at Anfield will be once more a major, major boost.

Even qualifying for the Champions League this season will be only a single, yet significant, step for Rodgers and Liverpool. They'll have to spend and improve the squad to cope with both competitions and make sure they do it all over again, qualifying next year, to keep that circle of improvement going.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers waves prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 7, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

There's another point to consider in that the Reds' coefficient will have dropped so much over the past few seasons that they could face an extremely tough group first time back. Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund both took time to progress past that stage, though both are now considered among the favourites at the beginning of each season.

All things considered, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Liverpool repeating their feat of 2005 and winning the Champions League before they manage the Premier League.

And in terms of their rivals, it's perhaps more than conceivable that—if they go on to secure a top-four place this season—some distance further along the Rodgers plan than Manchester United are down the path with David Moyes, they'll get around to lifting their sixth European Cup before United get the chance to repeat their 2008 victory.