Jurgen Klopp said he would have “paid a lot of money” to be where Liverpool are now – four points clear with 17 games left. The big bucks fans will spend to watch the rest of this engrossing title race will be well spent.
Liverpool retain a healthy lead but are catchable. Manchester City dipped in December but came thundering back with a win built on substance as much as style. The intensity of Thursday night’s game left neutrals marvelling at the commitment of both teams, Spurs fans claiming their side were being snobbishly overlooked, and Manchester United realising how far they still have to go, even after four straight wins under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
A lot changed over Christmas, as Jose Mourinho was left chewing his fist over United’s rejuvenation. Managerial talent, we see, is marooned unless players have faith in the leader, and fight for him/her, inspired by a common urge. When it works – and it worked at the Etihad – a manager’s personality is spread across a field by proxy.
There were no stowaways on City’s pitch and nobody held back. Even the most skilful foreign players (Bernardo Silva et all) relished being in a battle that was psychological as much as technical. In the eye of the gale, City’s Fernandinho embodied the ability some players have to combine high concentration with physical commitment and accuracy. His long passes to Raheem Sterling on the right were a masterclass in penetrative redistribution.