With Manchester City set to take on local rivals United on Wednesday, much of the talk has been about whether United can do Liverpool—their slightly less local rivals—a favour in the title race. Nobody on the United side, though, should be thinking of Liverpool.
They should be thinking about United. Who have stumbled back into to sixth place, where they sat when they sacked Jose Mourinho and replaced him with Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Who have lost three of their last five. Whose top four hopes are very quickly fading.
“They need to do themselves a favour,” was Liverpool centre half Virgil van Dijk’s dismissive response when asked about the possibility of United doing his side a favour in the title race against City. “Everton is not easy to beat at home, but 4-0 is a big result.”
A 4-0 loss to Everton is a big result. And not any good kind of big. It’s a very, very bad big result. A monumentally embarrassing one for a group of players have begun to grumble about a potential 25% pay-cut if they miss out on the Champions League.
You don’t get to be in the thick of a four-way battle for two top four places if you’re Paul Pogba or Marcus Rashford or David de Gea and then complain you might have your wages slashed if you’re going to turn in the kind of performance United did on the weekend.
United embarrassed themselves. Their players embarrassed themselves. If they go on now to miss out on the top four they will all have more than earned the lower wage that many are reported to have written into their contracts for such an eventuality.
For the sake of pride or for the sake of money, they need to do themselves a favour against City and never mind Liverpool. Though on the evidence of that 4-0 defeat to Everton, they might simply not be capable of doing anyone but City a favour.
”We have no influence on that,” Van Dijk added, “but they are still playing for Champions League football and they need to get a result.”