Comprehensive. Comfortable. Comparatively facile. All valid ways of describing Sunday's victory over Manchester United in their own reputedly intimidating fortress. As Alex Ferguson glowered and internally seethed, a Liverpudlian force of all-sorts led by their once derided manager, laid waste to his painstakingly built empire and hoisted their own colours with intent. Brendan Rodgers has drawn together lost souls, sinners, naive kids and last-chance saloon merchants and revitalised a captain to lead them in what has become a genuine title challenge. This is a proper team, my friends. If we were slow to allow ourselves to believe, we do now, and the hope is as disquieting as it is stirring.
Thankfully it is not us emotionally volatile fans on whom the potential success of the season rests. That task lies with the altogether more phlegmatic likes of Brendan Rodgers and his charges -- impressively redoubtable characters like Jon Flanagan. As a young Scouser, Flanagan started his Liverpool career under Kenny Dalglish on a tidal wave of good will. That tide receded quite dramatically when the youngster's form wavered and he drifted back towards the comparative obscurity of the U21 side. Some of those that stand under the same banner as you and I, dear reader, seem to enjoy nothing better than the hollow pay-off of being the first to dismiss a young player as not Liverpool class. Flanagan was the recipient of many such benighted judgements.
Brendan Rodgers, however, never one to shy away from giving youth a chance, promoted him at a key stage of the season against with the stakes incredibly high and his decision was greeted with a most unedifying disdain. Even those of a less disparaging bent were wary of the youngster's promotion but his unfussy tenacious style was exactly what the team needed and he has retained his place on merit. Many have spoken a touch condescendingly about his 'limited' ability but Flanagan's form tends to give the lie to such assessments. He has been tidy in possession, tigerish in the tackle and tireless in his work. On this form, Jon Flanagan will be a fixture beyond the end of this current campaign.
Speaking in the kind of measured tones one expects from a Liverpool player, Flanagan admitted to a deep personal satisfaction at beating the Mancunian team so comprehensively and he insisted that whilst nobody was getting carried away, there was a strong belief amongst the squad that they were moving in the right direction.
"It was brilliant. It couldn't have gone any better for us really," Flanagan told the Echo. "We dominated from start to finish. It was very comfortable. It doesn't get much better for me being a local lad and helping Liverpool win 3-0 at Old Trafford. We have put down a marker today. Momentum is building. I'm sure the other clubs up there will be worried after this result but we are just concentrating on ourselves. We all believe we can do it. We just need to keep pushing on. All the lads know we haven't achieved anything yet. Our target was top four at the start of the season and we are on target for that. Anything else is a bonus."
Flanagan's manager, the man whose faith has been vindicated, is unsurprisingly quick to laud his player. He pays particular tribute to the young Scouser's willingness to learn and adapt. Rodgers is a man who thinks deeply about the game and captain, Steven Gerrard, has praised the effective "tinkering" of the Northern Irishman as he goes from a diamond to a midfield three or from a flat back four to a five with motile wing-backs. Clearly then, such a coach will value technically proficient and tactically adept footballers. He makes a point of praising Flanagan for his dedication to improving the former whilst acknowledging his natural capacity for the latter.
"I think what has been impressive with Jon, from my perspective, is in the big games he's performed," said Rodgers. "He's a young player who has had to bide his time, but I've watched him closely on the training field and his development, and with the exercises we do with the ball and technique, he's become better. He's been able to tactically implement that into his game. He's a very, very important member of our squad. He can play right back, he can play left back, and as you can see he is tactically very good. He is hard to beat in a duel and is very, very committed. It's great to see young players like that develop and get better."
Flanagan's dramatic ascension to first team importance mirrors the incredible rate of improvement in the club as a whole under Rodgers' stewardship. The Carnlough man has instilled a beautiful calm at Liverpool Football Club, where since the last year of Rafa Benitez's reign, a tempest of chaos, outrage and indignation has raged unabated. With this calm has come an attendant rise in the club's fortunes and status as the players implement the evolving vision of their talented young coach. One can, for the first time, breathe and believe. The team have proven themselves trustworthy in their consistency.
In Luis Suarez, the Redmen boast one of the top three players in the world and in Steven Gerrard they have as inspirational and iconic a footballer as ever wore the Liverbird - a man renewed and revelling in his role as leader to this emergent force. Daniel Sturridge’s goalscoring élan, the trickery, tenacity and invention of Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho and the indefatigable brio of Jordan Henderson all make us confident of beating any side. Hell, we even have our very own Scouse Cafu.
This is joy. This is a mixture of giddy thrills and quiet confidence. When did you last feel that combination? Revel in it, fellow Reds. Live it. Love it. Our team are making us happy. Liverpool could win the league. Even if they do not, but continue to play in the wonderfully fluid and attacking way to which we have now become accustomed, so be it; but make no mistake, Liverpool could win the league.