In a single breath, everything changed. Everything being all that was was seen and understood. Everything being history. Prestige, honour, lineage. Everything in the present is aggravated by importance in the future. Everything matters.
It’s hard to quantify the Liverpool journey, without first acknowledging the feat itself. Anchored by history in one sense, liberated by another. Ultimately the irony of a team so moved by emotion grasping their hands on a title in a game that didn’t involve them playing nor the fans themselves present will rather harshly fulfill the storyline. The chains of celebration exist, though they are no longer significant. Who cares how it was won, so long as it was won.
For those that think it’s too much, you’re right. To wake up and believe deep down inside that there is a privilege – nay a right – to be involved within the top prize in English football, that alone is to watch from above a glass ceiling. As hard as that is to even conceive of now, Liverpool under Roy Evans’ existed underneath that barrier. Gerard Houllier scratched the surface, but he would ultimately fall away. What they were up against was a villain so overpowered, their very contention now seems overlooked.
Setting up Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United right now is to undersell his rule over the Premier League. The bowing of all before him neutered any kind of opposition. Individuals – and by proxy teams – fought back. Wenger bested him, Mourinho moulded him, Rafa smartened him. As the league became more competitive, fistfuls of dollars and briefcases full of cash became what would ultimately decide who was to be the best team in England. And that’s even before we get into Manchester City.
Right now it’s hilarious to look back at past seasons. Even those that weren’t quite up to much at the time. 96/97. No memory of a side that was eight points away. 01/02 similarly brings joy but only in a statistical sense. There’s a massive difference between earlier years and actual experiences. They are what make the moment itself more worthy.
2008/09 rises with a spectral moment. Not watching and being told about Yossi Benayoun’s late winner against Fulham, after Torres ruined Vidic as a footballer, felt like a nail in a coffin. Being on the other side of the Atlantic meant nothing. And then. And then Villa winning. And then Martin O’Neill. And then Macheda. All of this being laid out, like a gothic fairytale with no way of coming back, hurt. That’s even before Arshavin scores four.
Roy Hodgson. Pain. Kenny Dalglish. Return of the King. Trophies themselves aren’t enough. Pain.
Brendan Rodgers tries to play his part. Little did we know he was auditioning for the role of Icarus. Okay we got burned but what a flight it was. Luis Suarez scoring headers from outside the box, Daniel Sturridge showing Everton what time it was and Philippe Coutinho with *that* goal against Manchester City. The phrase “we do not let this slip” became appropo for more than one reason.
And so we come to a moment. A singular passage of time that directly resulted in which the celebrations we see before us today. It begins and ends with Manchester City, as it should. The monolithic all encompassing empire that was Sir Alex was one man. Pep Guardiola and his team were backed on an entirely different level. A state if you will. An oil state.
January 2018. One team was on it’s way to dominate the Premier League in a way that had never been seen. Man City seemed unassailable and would go on to post a century of points, and the question was could they – would they – given their obvious advantages, go the season unbeaten. Forty five minutes at Anfield put paid to that. The final score that day was 4-3 and though City made a spirited comeback, a wound had been opened. Pep Guardiola and his team were mortals after all.
A single league game in and of itself didn’t matter, especially when one side reached the seemingly unassailable heights of a hundred points. Domination in the league just needs to be elevated in European competition in order to illustrate the greatest single season ever. Only there was a fly in that ointment. Man City did reach previously unsurpassed levels of control domestically, reaching a jaw dropping century of points. They were made to fold at Anfield in the Champions League however. In such a way that underlined the power shift in the Premier League; and that from now on this would be the fight. No one could have foreseen that it would have not only been dispatched but in such a comprehensive manner. The joke was always that Liverpool would never win the league, not crush it completely.
Even having ascribed all that, it still seems surreal. Taking the gloves off they have more money and resources, though that’s almost certainly part of it. Trying to pitch this Liverpool victory as that of an underdog is to chase the tail of reaction. There are those clubs that won’t taste this kind of success, nor will there be those that are teased by it dangling in front of them. Whatever the perception of Liverpool Football Club in the modern era, that now doesn’t count. In a single breath, everything changed.