John Barnes is a Liverpool legend, and that means his opinion carries a great deal of weight. Still, it wouldn't be wise to listen to him simply because he's a former Liverpool player, as a great many former players can tend towards being prone to endless utterances that are neither constructive nor reasoned.
It's fortunate, then, that the sense and skill that made Barnes great as a player has carried over into his work as a pundit, and that was on display when the former Liverpool winger spoke to Talksport earlier in the week about his beloved club. Much has changed for Liverpool FC in the summer, and while fans are feeling positive about those changes, getting the opinion of a former player can offer a different perspective on such matters.
Liverpool have ambitions to retain their place in the top four, and judging by Brendan Rodgers' striking words on this issue last month, to win a trophy this season. The conviction and clarity of saying "I want a trophy this year" focuses players' minds and communicates intent to an expectant fanbase. So what does Barnes think of how Liverpool's season will shape up? And what of their long-time rivals from down the road in Manchester?
Manchester United will be back to where they believe they belong in the coming years. This season is too soon for them, though, with the big change they made at manager and everything that's going on. Liverpool are playing with consistency. They will be challenging Chelsea and Man City. I believe Liverpool will finish third but I don't think they'll be far off the top. Manchester United don't have the consistency yet to challenge for a top three, maybe not even for a top four spot.
Calm, measured, and free from too much hyperbole. Even with the additions made by Manchester United, it's clear theirs remains a side with issues to go along with a poor start to the current season, despite a relatively kind set of opening fixtures. Perhaps this season will be one of transition, but the amount invested seems certain to create expectancy for more than that, and that in turn could lead to problems. A top four finish would probably justify United's a gargantuan investment of late, but even then, this may be a season early for them to return to the land of milk and honey.
On the Liverpool side, to suggest a club that challenged for the title last season could be near that again seems reasonable, as does the idea that Chelsea and Manchester City remain favourites to finish above Brendan Rodgers' outfit despite his side's own improvements. None of Barnes' predictions are too wild, and at this extremely early stage, Liverpool do look well-suited for a strong push in the league with a much deeper squad to go along with what was an already talented first eleven. And as the season nears it's end, "not too far off" might just become another title challenge.
It's good to see a former Liverpool player with so much reason to add to their recorded rhymes, but then Barnes has always been one of Liverpool's best, both on and off the pitch.