It didn’t take long for the gravity of the situation to fully hit Liverpool fans. As soon as Mohamed Salah made it 2-0 at the death in front of the Kop against arch rivals Manchester United, the Kop responded with a chorus of that song.
Yup, it only took 16 points clear at the top with 16 games to go—with a game in hand!—for the Kop to let go of their collective anxiety that Liverpool would somehow stumble down the stretch. It took Mo Salah running down the wing, scoring what amounted to a big exclamation point at the end of a dominant performance against the other team from Manchester, for the Kop to sing “We’re going to win the league!”
Of course it’s not mathematically guaranteed yet. But if this were any other team, in any other league, you’d take one look at the league table and say “this is over.” Indeed, it’s fair to put the question of “if?” to bed, and to start looking at the fixture list and wonder “when?”
There are some tasty options in there. Win it at Goodison Park? Or maybe before then and make the Blues give us a guard of honor? Or maybe win it at the Ethihad instead? All good things to consider.
But we supporters should prepare ourselves for another alternative: we could just become champions on a random day without kicking a ball. Because Liverpool rarely play at the same time as Manchester City and/or Leicester City, one or the other (or, as was the case this weekend, both) could drop points before we play, thereby handing us the league.
For this generation of Liverpool supporters, it’ll be a “where were you when?” moment. And the answer, for many of us, might be “shopping for groceries” or “at the cinema” or “walking the dog.”
Even if we win it ourselves, it’s unlikely to be a moment like Divock Origi’s clincher in the Champions League final. The ref will blow the final whistle, and we will have won it. The big thing. The thing we’ve been so desperate to win.
In either case, it will be the best sort of anticlimax. So much so, that it will make a moment like Mo’s against United that much more special in retrospect.
Mo didn’t “win the league” against United, but the images of him slotting and ripping off his shirt in celebration—and Alisson running the full length of the pitch to join in—will become iconic for the club. Years, even decades from now, we’ll see that goal over and over on highlight packages. It will be this goal, among others, that will be remembered for “winning the league” even if each only represents a small step toward that end.
That moment felt big because it was big. It wasn’t the goal itself, but rather what it represented, as well as a perfect confluence of events. It was Cities Manchester and Leicester both dropping points. It was the tense nature of the match. It was the countless missed chances. It was the fact that it was Manchester United. And the fact that it was at the death.
It was a reason to sing “we’re going to win the league,” not as some sort of bravado, but rather as a statement of fact. It gave us that “clinching the league let off” moment that we’re unlikely to get on the pitch from here on in, but that we needed to celebrate in some way, shape, or form.
Of course the journey isn’t over. We have a tough away match on Thursday to Wolves, and then another 15 tough matches after that. Everyone will be gunning for the Champions Elect. Everyone will want to hand Liverpool their first loss of the season.
Now we just have to continue playing the same way that got us to this point. The way that this group of players continue to be hungry to win matches, to win shiny things, and to break records along the way, I have no concerns.
The league might be as good as over, but there’s still a great deal to play for. There are other trophies yet to win. A double, even treble, is still in the cards. Breaking Manchester City’s 100-point record is still possible. Matching or bettering Arsenal’s 49-game unbeaten streak and their Invincibles season are both there for the taking. Any one of these accomplishments would put the 2019/20 edition of this team among not just the great Liverpool sides, but the all-time great English sides.
It seems selfish to even dream about, considering the 30-years of futility, but this side could be playing their way into the record books and into football immortality. But they’ve gotten this far by being hungry game-in and game-out. They want to win each 50/50 challenge, and better each opponent. They know the job isn’t over yet, even if we’re celebrating as if it is.
My advice? Continue celebrating every goal like Mo’s on Sunday, and every win like it’s against Manchester United. Celebrate and sing as if we just won the league in dramatic fashion, and let these footballing gods that we call Liverpool Football Club sort out the rest.
Up the Champions Elect Reds.