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Manchester United 'truth' is hard for Liverpool to accept - so they shouldn't

Departed Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag.
-Credit: (Image: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)


Now, here's a question for you all to ponder. In one corner is a team who, despite winning the League Cup in dramatic fashion, saw their Premier League title challenge slip away in the closing weeks with their hugely successful and popular manager then walking away to prompt a period of uncertainty and unexpected tumult.

And in the other is one who, despite publicly decrying their admittedly lengthy injury list this season, have lifted the FA Cup and claimed silverware for the second successive season under their current boss.

No prizes for guessing the identity of the two teams. But it does lead to the obvious poser - having won what is traditionally the more glamorous honour, have Manchester United now enjoyed a more successful season than Liverpool? As ever, matters are rarely so black and white.

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For a start, while United have dropped down to the Europa League, Liverpool's third-placed finish means they have returned to the Champions League after a season on the outside, a reversal of last season's fortunes. And there's no escaping the fact the Old Trafford side posted their worst-ever Premier League finish of eighth and finished a whopping 22 points behind Liverpool.

But the head-to-head favoured United. Liverpool dominated all three games against their bitter North West rivals but won none of them, drawing twice in the Premier League and losing in dramatic fashion in their FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford. If ever a team's name has been on the cup, it was United's this term.

Then there's the relentless criticism and dressing room snipes against United boss Erik ten Hag, leading to claims before Saturday's FA Cup final win over Manchester City that he'd be given the boot regardless of the outcome. Indeed, it would be a brave decision now for United, with new investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe assuming a growing influence, to sack the Dutchman. And some will point to Klopp's final season having echoed ten Hag's first, with both winning the League Cup and finishing third.

These are indisputable facts. But consider these words from ten Hag himself this week following confirmation of compatriot Arne Slot's arrival at Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp and Pepijn Lijnders have left a strong foundation," said the United boss. "He ends up in better waters than I did when I went to Manchester United from the Netherlands - in terms of structure in the club, in terms of balance in the squad.”

There, as they say, is the rub.

Liverpool are ahead of schedule and will be building a new foundation under Slot from a position of strength. United, for their part, are still a mess off the pitch with a talented but bloated squad built more for one-off knockout cup runs than consistent performances. For a net spend approaching three times that of Liverpool over the last five years, they would expect more and it may yet ultimately cost ten Hag his job, prompting another period of uncertainty and overhaul. Rinse and repeat.

City's surprise loss was also a reminder of how difficult it is to win the domestic Double, even if eight of the 13 occasions it has happened since 1888 have come during the Premier League era. Even the all-conquering Pep Guardiola team has achieved it just twice. In the latter half of the 1980s, Liverpool achieved their sole Double and came close on three other occasions.

United, then, can rightly claim to have won the better silverware than Liverpool this season. But nobody of sane mind would suggest their players and supporters have enjoyed a greater campaign.