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Say the Right Thing: The Manager


As we continue to wind down from the heady highs of United victory and Suarez dominance, we turn back to the manager and his way with words. To the surprise of no one, he's gone and said the right things again, which might eventually start to get dull if it wasn't for the at times knowing way he often plays with his questioners. Though this time around it was more about the warm glow of victory than light verbal sparing, after a dominant display like Sunday's it only seems right to look back from all the angles available, and if in the wake of a match that put the icing on the cake of his extended sixtieth birthday celebration one of those angles just happens to come via the words of a Liverpool legend who seems to have given the club and players a new lease on life, well, who am I to ignore it?

Heck, it's almost enough to make one forget the days when managers gave weekly verdicts rather than hailing this, that, or the other. Though of course part of forgetting those days of managerial verdicts might have more than a little something to do with what we're seeing on the pitch. And a lot of that has to do with the performance of the entire team, not just one or two players--no matter how great Luis Suarez was or how important Dirk Kuyt's first hattrick for the club--a point Dalglish got at when he was pressed to heap all the praise on just one or two players:

Well everybody who supports Liverpool has had a great day and it owes to the performance of the players.

I thought the way they went about their job, their attitude, their commitment, their desire to get a result, the pride they took in playing for the football club and the pride they took in themselves in their own performance were the reasons they got the result.

Without everybody giving everything they've got, you don't beat Manchester United--they did that. It's great credit to them that they did and played so well.

One thing that always seems to come up in his interviews is that fierce pride in the club, as when on first being appointed he talked of owing a debt to Liverpool and its supporters in spite of everything he'd already done over the decades. You see that same sot of dichotomy at play when he puts all the credit for the success on the players, but also insists that it is their commitment not only to themselves but also to the club--to things other than themselves--that provides the building blocks for that success to meaningfully exist in the first place. He also, as with any good manager, seeks to spread the praise around when there's reason for it, and to shoulder the bulk of the blame when there isn't. Obviously against United there were plenty of people on the pitch to praise beyond the obvious, from a defensively dedicated Gerrard to Johnson at leftback, Carragher pushed out onto the right to Lucas keeping things ticking over in midfield, Reina solid again after a shaky week to Maxi looking useful again after a long absence. Suarez in particular shone, and that was down to his skill and determination and sheer individual quality, but it also owed to the foundation of a solid team performance without which his exploits could not have existed to take plaudits.

Still, one glorious afternoon combined with a starring turn or two doesn't make everything right in Liverpool's world, and it doesn't get the club back to where they want to be:

The closer you get the top, the more difficult it is to close the gap. If you move from 20th to sixth, it's not as big a problem as moving from second to first. The higher you go, the more difficult the step up is.

The owners are determined to move the club forward within reason, and whatever that's going to be they'll do their best to provide it. But the players that played today did not do themselves any harm whatsoever of being part of the club going forward.

For all that Liverpool has looked much better on the whole under Dalglish, there have still been inconsistencies and hiccups. West Ham was an obvious one, though in the aftermath of United it's easy to forget that that tough loss was a few weeks in the making, coming as it did at the end of a string of underwhelming performances. When you look at the table, too, the gap between the top five clubs this season and Liverpool as the leader of a pack from six back into double digits is stark, and it speaks to the unfortunate reality of a run at fourth being next to impossible right now. The outing against United was impressive, as was the earlier one against Chelsea, but even if on present form under Dalglish the club would be on pace to net 72 points and a Champions League berth over the length of a season, Liverpool isn't really where it wants to be. And while they might be heading in the right direction, that last step is a hard one, as the club found out back in the 2009 season.

It's hard not to get a little smile, too, from the way he manages to fit "within reason" in when he talks about getting back to the top. The net spend may not have amounted to much in January, but with a handful of attempted deals falling through at the end and the club scrambling with the Torres situation there was regardless an obvious determination to spend and improve, no matter what the pounds and cents added up to when the dust settled. Still, he seems to remind everybody, Liverpool aren't City or Chelsea, and moreover most supporters have never wanted them to be. The club will spend, but it won't be foolish, and many of the players here now will have to do their parts along with the coaches and all the rest to get Liverpool back where it belongs.

It's hard not to imagine they might have it in them to do it, too, after a display like Sunday's. But it's a hard final step, and maybe even a hard couple of steps from where they are now, and the warmth of United cannot obscure the fact that there's still work to be done and that Liverpool won't be off spending Real Madrid money on players in the summer to try and magically make it all right.

No mater the case for the future, seeing as Kenny Dalglish does always seem to say the right thing in the here and now, and seeing as everything over the past few days has managed to revolve itself around his never-ending birthday, I suppose I should probably put an end to my ramblings and just let him have the final say on the matter:

I don't know how long this birthday is going to last--I'll be 70 by the time it finishes!

The fans have always been fantastic supporters to myself and my whole family. It was a bit emotional when they started singing it--I don't think they would have sang it if we had been losing, and I wouldn't have wanted to have heard it if we were, but as I said the day went really well for us. The fact it was my birthday, well every day is my birthday when I go into Melwood.

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