Mohamed Salah rubbished suggestions he is past his best as the Anfield faithful were given a glimpse of a new-look attack in Liverpool’s thrashing of Manchester United.
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Almost a year ago, Liverpool produced a performance here at Anfield of such poetic beauty, we genuinely wondered if they could go on and become the club’s greatest of all time.
The opponents were a shell-shocked Manchester United, the scoreline a quite brutal 4-0 thrashing. The conclusion? Jurgen Klopp’s team really were capable of completing an historic quadruple.
The circumstances this time were very different, the talk not so grandiose, but this astonishing improvement – in scoreline at least – on last season’s evisceration of their oldest, most hated rivals on this remarkable Merseyside afternoon was greeted with equal enthusiasm from the Kop.
There was almost a bemused happiness at the end, the question hanging in the damp Anfield air: ‘where the hell did this 7-0 come from?’ Frankly, Liverpool fans didn’t care – the relief that their team was ‘back’ the overwhelming emotion of an insane afternoon.
Yet as they streamed out of the stadium at the end – the home supporters that is, as United’s distraught following had long since asked to be released from the away end by a sympathetic police – there would surely have been a feeling of hope.
It turned out last season’s win here was the dying growl of Klopp’s first great Liverpool team, which will be dismantled by the end of this campaign, with Bobby Firmino leaving and several others following. Yet here was evidence his next team is taking shape, not least in the performance of Cody Gakpo, who is clearly the heir apparent to Firmino. On this evidence, he is a fitting successor to the throne of a regal Liverpool legend.
Gakpo was outstanding in his movement and his finishing was up the same level, which is precisely what Klopp is looking for. There was cohesion and understanding in his attack, the best the front three have performed all campaign, which is the most promising sign of all.
Darwin Nunez was exciting, dangerous and also did the hard defensive yards, too, while Mohamed Salah was, well, Mohamed Salah again. There has been talk of him perhaps coming to the end, washed up. – even talk of a summer sale, another to leave. But his energy here, his composure, his finishing and his ability to create for others suggests there is plenty of life in him yet. He passed Robbie Fowler’s Premier League record for the Reds and celebrated with the air of a man who knows his stats.
The fans celebrated with him too. This was the real Salah, the Real Liverpool, and maybe, just maybe, they can go on and begin to grow again into the side that had the world before them a year ago. A new Liverpool, with the old Klopp swagger.