Manchester United Can Learn from Collapse of Liverpool's Empire

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentMarch 14, 2014

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 05:  Everton Manager David Moyes gestures as Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield on May 5, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

There is a fear among Manchester United fans that history is being repeated—that they are watching the collapse of the empire built by Sir Alex Ferguson in the same way Liverpool fans watched theirs crumble in the 1990s.

When Liverpool won their 18th league championship in 1990, their 11th in 18 years, few supporters would have guessed they would go more than two decades (and counting) without another one.

It represents a worst-case scenario for United post-Ferguson.

It is unfortunate for David Moyes that in his first season as manager, a difficult season, Liverpool are challenging for the title. 

Their meeting at Old Trafford on Sunday has only served to highlight their changing fortunes and the lessons United can learn from Liverpool's past.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Ferguson's declaration on taking the United job in 1986 that he was determined to "knock Liverpool off their perch" has become legend.

But, in truth, they weren't really knocked off their perch at all. They dived off themselves.

It's one thing watching one of your fiercest rivals beat you to title after title. It's another looking up from mid-table.

Last summer, Moyes replaced Ferguson at English football's dominant club side. In 1991, it was Graeme Souness replacing Kenny Dalglish.

In his first two summers in charge, Souness got rid of Peter Beardsley, Steve Staunton, Gary Gillespie, Steve McMahon, Barry Venison and Ray Houghton. A combined 34 years of Anfield experience and 13 league titles out of the door in the space a couple of years.

Jul 1991:   Liverpool manager Graeme Souness watches his team from the bench during pre-season friendly match. Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford/ALLSPORT
Ben Radford/Getty Images

The players who came in struggled to fill their boots and a team that had finished outside the top two just once in the previous 19 years were finishing sixth, sixth again and then eighth.

They didn't finish in the top two again until 2002.

Moyes could see a similar amount of experience leave in the summer if Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand follow Nemanja Vidic's decision to move on.

He will, however, at least be happy Robin van Persie, 31 in August, has now stated his intention to stay at Old Trafford beyond the end of the season.

It is nice of Robin (to say he is happy to stay).

He is happy here and we are very pleased about that.

He has a couple of years to go on his contract and I am sure that (an extension) is something the board will look at.

Liverpool have employed seven different managers since Dalglish left in April 1991. There have been highlights since—particularly under Rafael Benitez, who won the Champions League in 2005—but they are still waiting for that next title.

United have an advantage in that, the Glazer Family's financial management aside, they should always have the money to compete with Europe's elite.

Liverpool's run at the top ended just as the Premier League began to exploit English football's financial possibilities. They've been playing catch-up ever since.

After the disastrous reigns of Roy Hodgson, Dalglish (the second time), George Gillett and Tom Hicks, Liverpool finally have a direction under Brendan Rodgers and the Fenway Sports Group.

Just down the road, United are searching for one under their new manager.

JON SUPER/Associated Press

United face Liverpool on Sunday in a game that feels as much about establishing the new pecking order as three Premier League points.

But a Liverpool win at Old Trafford won't signal a changing of the guard, just as victory for United won't mean their empire is destined to stay intact. 

But it will at least go some way to proving that this season, this awful season, is just a blip.

And that history is not about to repeat itself after all.


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