For Liverpool, it was the wildest dream.
For Manchester United, the worst nightmare in what has been such a promising first season under coach Erik ten Hag.
Liverpool’s 7-0 defeat by United in the Premier League on Sunday has the potential to have a lasting impact on both teams’ ambitions this season.
It was United’s worst competitive defeat in over 90 years, having lost by the same scoreline on three previous occasions, most recently in 1931 against Wolverhampton.
The result also eclipsed Liverpool’s previous best win against arguably their fiercest rival, which was a 7-1 victory in 1895.
“A few months ago everyone thought it was a good time to play against Liverpool, you can’t say that publicly, but everyone thought so, because they felt we were struggling a lot,” manager Jurgen Klopp said. “But now is not a good time, we feel much more like ourselves. It is important that everyone knows that we are here, and we are still alive.”
A historic victory could be the platform for a powerful finish to Liverpool’s campaign, a push for Champions League qualification and possibly more.
Ten Hag, meanwhile, must hope their players respond in the way they did after humiliating defeats against Brentford and Manchester City this season, which led to impressive unbeaten runs.
A chase for four trophies now looks highly unlikely, with third-placed United 14 points adrift of league leaders Arsenal. But after winning the League Cup last week, the Ten Hag side continue to fight for the FA Cup and Europa League in what still has the potential to be a successful campaign.
Not that the Dutchman was in any mood to look for the positives immediately after what was also his worst defeat as a manager.
“That to me is unprofessional,” he said. “I’m very disappointed and angry. We let our fans down. As a team, as a team, you can’t allow that.
“You have to stick together and support each other and fight for each other. You have to stand up for that. We didn’t do that and to me that’s really unprofessional.”
Ten Hag has endured his share of difficult days in his first season in charge of the 20-time league champions.
United lost 4-0 to Brentford in just the second game of the campaign and were beaten 6-3 in their first Manchester derby.
“I know this team is going to reset and we have to bounce back, and we’ve shown in the past that we can,” he said.
Klopp has had his own problems this term as his side have struggled to cope with the departure of Sadio Mane last summer.
Until recently, even a top-four Champions League finish looked in doubt, with Liverpool suffering heavy losses against Brentford, Brighton and Wolverhampton since the start of 2023.
This win, however, cuts the gap to fourth-placed Tottenham to three points with a game in hand.
It was also evidence of a growing understanding among Liverpool’s new attack as Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah scored twice, with Roberto Firmino adding the other.
“It was one of the best performances for a long, long time. Everyone saw how good the boys can be,” Klopp said. “No one doubted Darwin’s future impact. Cody plays in the toughest area of the pitch against a man-marking team, which is very tricky. Mo is Mo.”
With fourth place in sight, Liverpool fans could still dream of an unlikely comeback in the Champions League last 16 tie against Real Madrid later this month.
Although European champions Madrid lead 5-2 after the first leg at Anfield, it was the kind of performance that made the Merseyside club believe anything is possible.
Klopp’s assessment of Sunday’s game was succinct: “Strange result, top performance.”
Report from The Associated Press.
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