20 Biggest Changes in Football Since Liverpool Finished Above Manchester United

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistMarch 12, 2014

20 Biggest Changes in Football Since Liverpool Finished Above Manchester United

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    May 2002. Aided by Danny Murphy's second successive winning goal at Old Trafford the previous January (pictured above), Liverpool finished above Manchester United in the table for the first time in 11 years.

    In coming runners-up to Arsenal, the Reds secured their first top-two finish for 11 years as well, whilst they also ended an 11-year streak in which United had constantly finished either first or second.

    Fast forward to 2014, and a win at Old Trafford on Sunday will place Liverpool 14 points ahead of United with nine games remaining, and so it would be fairly safe to assume that they were going to finish above their rivals for the first time in 12 years.

    So just what has happened in football since the last time the Merseysiders finished ahead of the Mancunians?

    Here we take a look at 20 of the biggest changes in the game: 


United Surpassed Liverpool's Titles Record

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    Perhaps the biggest change in English football in the past 12 years is the fact that it is Manchester United and not Liverpool that now rule the roost.

    Even throughout United's success in the 1990s, Liverpool could always point to their record haul of 18 league titles, but United equalled that total when pipping Liverpool to the post in 2009, before they reached 19 titles in 2011.

    Last season's success was their 20th, but it was also the final season for Sir Alex Ferguson in the job, opening up the possibility for others to dominate in years to come...

Sir Alex Ferguson Finally Called It a Day

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    Because the impact of Ferguson's retirement at Manchester United has been felt all season by the Old Trafford club, yet it could have come so much earlier.

    The Scot had initially planned to retire at the end of that 2001/02 season which would see United finish third behind Arsenal and Liverpool, but he decided to stay on after a dispute with the club was resolved.

    Twelve years of sustained success followed, and David Moyes has found out just how tough an act he is to follow this season.

David Moyes Emerged as Sir Alex Ferguson's Successor

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    In May 2002, David Moyes had been in charge of Everton for just two months, with his 11-year reign at Liverpool's rivals only just beginning.

    By last year, when Sir Alex Ferguson retired from his exceptional reign at Manchester United, the knight of the realm had hand-picked Moyes as his immediate successor and the man who could retain United's place at the top of the tree in the English game.

    With the Red Devils currently battling for sixth with Everton, Moyes hasn't exactly started as he means to go on, but he retains the support of Ferguson and is pleading for time to turn things around at Old Trafford.


Spain Learned How to Win with Style

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    Spain crashed out of the 2002 World Cup in acrimonious fashion as they accused opponents and joint-hosts South Korea of foul play in the quarter-final.

    A couple more tournament failures followed, but by 2008 they had found their groove.

    Spain are no longer the tournament chokers they once were, and victories at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 have established them as one of the greatest international sides of all time.

Goal-Line Technology Finally Happened

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    It took a while and a few high-profile decisions, but the era of goal-line technology has finally arrived.

    Admittedly it is only the Premier League who are leading the way with the use of the technology at the moment, but with FIFA confirming that we'll see it at the summer's World Cup, it surely won't be long until we see similar systems rolled out amongst the major competitions.

The Extra Officials

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    UEFA's current alternative to goal-line technology in their continental competitions is to employ extra officials on the by-line at each end of the pitch.

    It is still yet to be established just what these officials are doing to help the referee, and indeed there have been examples of them making errors such as the failure to award Ukraine a goal against England at Euro 2012 (note the official's head at the foot of the screen in this picture).

    Just how long they'll stick around for remains to be seen, but the sight of five officials walking out onto the pitch remains a novel one at least.

Real Madrid Stopped Winning the Champions League

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    Just four days after the 2001/02 Premier League season finished with Liverpool in second and United third, Real Madrid beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to win the Champions League at Hampden Park thanks to stunning winner from Zinedine Zidane.

    It was their third European Cup in five seasons and a ninth overall. A 10th―"La Decima"―seemed to be a matter of when and not if.

    And yet it has never arrived, with Real not even reaching a final in the years that have followed.

    Is this their year?

Wigan Became the FA Cup Kings

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    Wigan finished that 2001/02 season in 10th place in Division Two, but after their promotion to the Premier League in 2005 they managed to stay in the division for eight years before reinventing themselves as FA Cup kings.

    Their remarkable win in the competition last year has been followed by a semi-final appearance this time around.

    Who'd have thought that 12 years ago?

Liverpool Won a Fifth European Cup

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    As far as Liverpool are concerned, the most significant change in their last 12 years was becoming five-time European champions instead of four.

    Had you told a Reds fan 12 years ago that this was going to happen, they probably wouldn't have believed you, and Liverpool have barely come close to winning the Premier League since, but their remarkable run to the Istanbul final of 2005 captured the imagination.

    The final itself was even more unbelievable of course, with Rafael Benitez's Reds defying the odds to beat AC Milan on penalties.

Ronaldo Became the World Cup's All-Time Top Scorer

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    Ronaldo's two goals in the final won Brazil the World Cup in 2002, and then four years later he made history at the tournament in Germany.

    The Brazilian forward scored twice against Japan in a group match to equal Gerd Muller's record of 14 goals at World Cup finals tournaments, before he set a new record with a strike against Ghana in the second round.

    Brazil lost to France in the quarter-finals, thereby ending the World Cup career of a player whose scoring exploits have ensured that he will always remain synonymous with the competition.

Chelsea Emerge from the Shadows to Become a Superpower

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    In 2002, Chelsea were just another Premier League team, and one with mounting debts on the way at that.

    All of that changed when Roman Abramovich arrived at the club a year later, with the Blue revolution really kicking into gear when Jose Mourinho breezed through the Stamford Bridge doors 12 months after that.

    Three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and, most memorably of all, the 2012 Champions League followed under a succession of different managers.

    Chelsea aren't just another Premier League club any more.

Greece Shocked Europe in 2004

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    In May 2002, everyone was looking forward to the World Cup in Korea and Japan that summer, and whilst that was won by a fairly predictable side in Brazil, the following European Championships would take everyone by surprise.

    Greece entered the tournament in Portugal as one of the outsiders to even qualify from their group, never mind win the tournament, but they shocked the watching continent and remarkably won the tournament by beating the hosts in their final.

    Ten years on, their triumph still seems incredible.

Lionel Messi Happened

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    In 2002, Lionel Messi was still making his way through Barcelona's youth teams, with the football world as yet unaware of just what was about to unleashed upon it.

    After appearing for the first team in friendly matches in 2003, Messi made his La Liga debut the following year, and so began a decade at the top for the still just-26-year-old.

    Messi has scored 340 goals in 410 matches foe Barca's first team, picking up six La Liga titles and three Champions League winners' medals along the way.

    Throw in four Ballon d'Or awards, and you've got a pretty special talent.

Jose Mourinho Arrived on the Scene

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    After becoming Porto manager in January 2002, Jose Mourinho wasted no time in cultivating a long-lasting managerial reputation.

    The Portuguese guided Porto to a league and UEFA Cup double in his first full season in charge, and from there he never really looked back, landing the Champions League in the following season before departing to win league titles in England, Italy and Spain, picking up another Champions League with Inter Milan along the way.

    Yet would you have known who he was before 2002?

The World's Most Expensive Footballer Is Welsh

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    The world-record transfer fee wouldn't be broken for another seven years after 2002, but Real Madrid have since smashed it three times.

    Moves for Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo broke the record within weeks of each other in 2009, before Real paid Tottenham around £86 million for the services of Gareth Bale last summer.

    On a list of names dominated by stars from countries such as England, Brazil, Italy and Portugal, seeing tiny Wales on there does come as somewhat of a surprise, but Bale has been a hit since arriving in Madrid, scoring 14 goals in his 29 appearances.

Pep Guardiola Took Up Coaching, and Turned out to Be Very Good at It

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    The later years of Pep Guardiola's playing career weren't as spectacular as those that went before, but the move into coaching has gone pretty well so far.

    After a season in charge of Barcelona's B team in the 2007/08 campaign, Guardiola took over the senior side and led Barca to a treble of La Liga, Copa Del Rey and Champions League in his first season.

    He would win two more La Liga titles and one more Champions League before taking a year's sabbatical and then moving on to Bayern Munich last year.

    It's been "so far, so good" for him there, as well.

The Rebirth of Tiki-Taka

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    You can trace the origins of the "tiki-taka" style of football back to Johan Cruyff's time at Barcelona, but the tactic has experienced a boom in recent years due to the successes of both Barca and the Spanish national team.

    Perhaps best associated with Spain's 2010 World Cup win, the monopolising of possession through gifted footballers such as Xavi and Andres Iniesta has been key to virtually every major competition for the last few years.



Manchester City's New Ownership Brings Success

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    Under the stewardship of Kevin Keegan, an entertaining Manchester City side won what became the Championship in 2002, amassing 99 points and scoring 108 goals along the way.

    City spent another year at their old Maine Road home following promotion, before the move to what has now been called the Etihad Stadium which preceded the club's sale to the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008.

    They have scarcely looked back since, and despite the odd setback they have now positioned themselves amongst the elite clubs in England, most notably winning the Premier League title in 2011/12.


The Silver Goal Is Introduced... and Then Scrapped

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    The Silver Goal was introduced in 2002, but it was only to last two years.

    The rule followed on from the more popular Golden Goal rule, with the only difference meaning that a goal scored in the first half of extra-time would ensure that only the remainder of that half be played.

    It was put in place for the Euro 2004 tournament, with the only competitive Silver Goal scored by Greece's Traianos Dellas in the closing stages of the first half of extra-time in the semi-final against the Czech Republic.

    So, it was effectively a Golden Goal anyway.



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    Previously the only way that we'd get to know a player's thoughts would be in a post-match interview or through official club channels, but all that has changed now.

    We're now used to seeing footballers expressing their opinions on Twitter 24 hours a day, often saying things which end up getting them in trouble and fined by either the FA or their club.

    Freedom of speech has moved on to this level though, and quite rightly it appears to be here to stay.