7 truths: Unlucky Brendan Rodgers, lucky Manchester United
Liverpool's defeat to Manchester United has seen the heat intensify on Brendan Rodgers - but they would be mad to let him go.
1) Liverpool are lucky to have Brendan Rodgers
Newsflash: Liverpool are not title contenders. Their season has been disappointing, but by no means catastrophic – their squad is nowhere near Chelsea's and is marginally behind Manchester City, Arsenal and United. Is it really Rodgers' fault that the club couldn't replace Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge has been permanently injured and Simon Mignolet spent much of the season disintegrating as a goalkeeper? His perplexing interviews can enrage people – and the fact he's gone three years without a trophy may concern some - but is it really time to get rid of a man who carried them within a slip of winning the title?
He reinvented Liverpool at the end of 2014, remoulding them into Champions League hopefuls before they just run out of steam – in no small part due to a Steven Gerrard stamp on Ander Herrera. The banner that flew over Anfield on Saturday afternoon called for the return of Rafa Benitez. That hardly sounds like a club trying to push forward. Rodgers deserves one more season.
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2) Manchester United fortunate to have a four-point cushion in Champions League race
Putting the pro-Rodgers stuff to one side, it must be noted that had Liverpool beaten Hull City in midweek then the gap to fourth would be a solitary point – assuming (fans of chaos theory will disagree) that all future events after that clash reached the same conclusion. United are creaking at a dangerous time but, crucially, so are the teams below them: Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton. It’s almost as though the chasing trio lost hope too early on, as though they believed City, Arsenal and United would all avoid an end-of-season collapse.
As it is, United have lost three on the bounce, still sit merrily in fourth and will probably sneak over the line for a Champions League qualification spot. If only the three teams below them had maintained their momentum – then we might have actually had an exciting conclusion to the season at the top of the table.
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3) Fans face a near-impossible task to oust unwelcome owners
Spare a thought for the Huddersfield fans who made the 70-mile trip to Blackpool only to watch their Championship clash descend into farce as opposition supporters stormed the pitch and set up camp in the centre circle. The match was abandoned; the Tangerines fanbase had made their point. But at what cost? The club is already heading for League One and can ill afford to infuriate fans of rival clubs if they want wider backing in their protest against Karl Oyston.
Elsewhere, Newcastle fans have tried boycotts – although they’ve yet to completely vacate St James’ Park – and various colourful posters inadvertently advertising Sports Direct, but none of it appears to have resonated with owner Mike Ashley. It all begs the question: how are fans meant to successfully oust unwelcome owners?
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4) La Liga's bottom sides are embarrassing
Can we really get excited about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's respective assaults on the globe's goalscoring record when many sides they face are useless? Barcelona have won their last two matches by a combined 14-0, while Real Madrid shipped nine past Granada in early April.
How would Sergio Aguero and Eden Hazard compare if they were thrust into star-studded sides who regularly destroy their domestic opponents? For all the chatter about La Liga being the strongest league in the world given their Champions League representation, the reality is that the bottom eight sides would struggle to stay up in England's second tier.
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5) Sadio Mane needs to stop going down needlessly
Is there a player in the Premier League who loves a tumble as much as the Southampton man? After a succession of needless slumps to the turf against Tottenham last weekend, Mane was lucky to avoid a thump from one of the Sunderland contingent after throwing himself to the ground under minimal contact. He’s gaining a reputation for going down easily and needs to stop it quickly or risk repercussions.
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6) If Newcastle stay up, it’s because other teams have failed
February 28, 2015: 35 points.
May 2, 2015: 35 points.
Still despise Alan Pardew, Newcastle fans? The Toon’s eighth straight defeat, a 3-0 surrender at Leicester, has left the club seriously contemplating a return to the Championship. Their remaining fixtures - West Brom (h), QPR (a) and West Ham (h) – look straightforward enough, but given their woeful efforts in the West Midlands they seem set to finish the season in the bottom three. Only a crumble from Hull, Leicester or Sunderland can spare them now (or a hasty appointment of Steve McLaren…).
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7) Tim Sherwood has a gift for entertainment
Tim Sherwood: "They're looking like a Tim Sherwood side.”
Reporter: "What's a Tim Sherwood side?”
Sherwood: "They win.”
It's good to have you back, Tim.
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Ben Snowball - @BenSnowball