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Handing United the Perch

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Kenny Dalglish Alex Ferguson title 19
We never handed anybody anything. We beat them 3-1 at Anfield so we didn't hand it to them. We can only look after ourselves.

In my eyes we're still the best club in English football, if not world football.

Helping to hand Manchester United their nineteenth title. Helping, in some small way, a certain Mister Alex Ferguson knock Liverpool off that perch he has lusted after for the club he long ago became synonymous with and as a final feather in his cap.

It's become a talking point of late, both leading up to the most recent match against Arsenal at the Emirates and in its aftermath, a draw that from the table watcher's perspective does nothing much to help Liverpool's slim aspirations for European qualification while only putting one more nail in any slim hopes Arsenal had of themselves taking the title and thereby keeping Liverpool's obsessive neighbour stuck on eighteen.

Similarly, it was a talking point last season, when Chelsea came to Anfield late on needing a victory to fend off Ferguson's Red Devils as they hunted for a shiny golden patch to put on the shoulders of their Premier League kits, though in that case Chelsea was strong enough in the end to earn their own victory.

For some, worry over Manchester United trumped concern for Liverpool, both then and now, as talk again surfaced of it perhaps being advisable for Liverpool to roll over meekly against the Gunners in the hopes it might stop United's seemingly inevitable march. To which one can only--and not to put too fine a point on it--say bullshit. Bullshit that Liverpool should be making their primary concern what some other club might do. And bullshit to the idea that showing up to actually play football against the number two side in the table for one match can be the decisive moment in this season's title race.

If Arsenal was a legitimate title threat they wouldn't have drawn nil-nil against Sunderland. They wouldn't have shipped two goals to West Bromwich Albion on the way to another draw. And they certainly wouldn't have failed to find the back of the net against a Blackburn side down to ten men for much of the second half on route to yet another uninspiring draw.

If Arsenal was realistically capable of overtaking Manchester United they wouldn't have needed Liverpool to roll over and play dead to keep their hopes alive, either. They wouldn't have been sitting on a scoreless draw against a side ravaged by injuries before the match that then went on to lose three more players to injury throughout its ninety minutes. They wouldn't have been powerless to fight their way past a fullback duo whose average age was seventeen and a half and who had a combined one Premier League start between them. They wouldn't have been fought to a near draw in the center of the park by a midfield pair of Lucas Leiva and Jay Spearing while having a numerical advantage that included the services of PFA Young Payer of the Year Jack Wilshere and Barcelona's long lost love Cesc Fabregas.

Four draws in the last five matches and needing a dubious penalty well into stoppage time to get their first and only goal against a thin, injury ravaged Liverpool side at the Emirates is not the work of a title contender, no matter how long and hard Arsene Wenger whines and complains to the press about being robbed by an even later and at the very least no more dubious penalty that saw Liverpool pull the score level on the game's final kick.

That is the Arsenal side some have said Liverpool helped keep from the title on Sunday. That is the team some more concerned with United than Liverpool were pinning all their hopes on, to the point that a loss might almost seem preferable, in order that it might stop Alex Ferguson from moving his club ahead in the league title count.

And that is the height of foolishness.

Because Arsenal shouldn't have needed one ounce of help from Liverpool to take the title, and Liverpool fighting back--and looking something like the never-say-die Liverpool of old again in the process--isn't what will gift a soul crushingly average Manchester United side their nineteenth this season. A fragile Arsenal that yet again couldn't make it over the hump, a group and manager that one more time flubbed their lines when it mattered most and sought to blame referees and outside forces instead of looking at their own problems, is the only thing that will gift Manchester United number nineteen.

And that shouldn't be Liverpool's primary concern, either, just as nobody would have suggested it was Arsenal's concern to stop another title heading to Manchester when in 08-09 they battled tooth and claw with Liverpool for a 4-4 draw at Andfield before proceeding to put on a limp display against United in a potential six point swing in the final weeks of that campaign's title race.

Yet some, despite that it is unequivocally Arsenal's failings throughout the new year and not Liverpool's fight in a single match that will lead to the final table, would persist in being more concerned with United's prospects than in worrying about Liverpool's. This is looking up to United, putting them on a pedestal and treating them as some kind of superior force whose unlikely defeat is more important in the long run than any actual Liverpool success. It's the mentality of a losing side. And it is very much the wrong approach.

Those who follow Liverpool should only be worrying about one thing right now: Not whether United can capture number nineteen this season, but how, if they do, Liverpool will go about beating them to number twenty and reclaiming that spot, all alone, atop the perch.