If this was an evening that began with a half-hearted protest, it surely ended with a full-blooded plea.
Liverpool, and Jurgen Klopp, need help. And it’s now up to Fenway Sports Group to loosen the purse strings.
The debate over whether the Reds require midfield reinforcement has proven divisive among the fanbase. With eight senior options in the squad, it’s small wonder such a transfer hasn’t been a priority this window, particularly with next summer a natural time for change given the number of contracts coming to an end.
Klopp has been quite happy to insist there will be no further business. His understanding of the club’s finances and transfer policy has, of course, served him extremely well during seven success-laden years at Anfield.
But there comes a point where something needs to be done. And that moment was perhaps reached when Naby Keita once again withdrew with another injury, clearly disrupting a gameplan that had been worked on for the best part of a week.
Another game saw another makeshift midfield. Questions may be asked over Fabinho being benched but the Brazilian has been poor in recent weeks, so it was hardly the most surprising call. However, the engine room malfunctioned badly and gave United the impetus they needed to gain an early lead they didn’t relinquish, despite Liverpool dominating possession and shots at goal.
The witch in the building, as Klopp referenced last week, meant the Reds had around £280million of talent on the sidelines. Even allowing for Darwin Nunez’s self-inflicted absence, that’s still about £200m across nine players. Few if any squads can cope with that level of missing talent.
There was precious little from the bench, although both Fabinho when introduced and Fabio Carvalho made a positive difference. By contrast, United could afford to drop seasoned internationals Cristiano Ronaldo, Fred, Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire while parading £70m new signing Casemiro before the game.
If it was a transparent attempt to fend off anticipated large-scale unrest inside Old Trafford aimed at the Glazer family, it worked, with the protests instead limited to outside the ground and the occasional chant as United capitalised on Liverpool’s early nervousness, the midfield worries spooking an at times shocking defensive effort.
Forget the title. Forget the top-four. The Reds can right now only go game by game and look to regroup after a dismal start to the Premier League season.
And if Klopp believes that can only be changed by a new signing or two, then FSG need to take a short-term financial hit to ensure an early wobble doesn’t become anything more serious.