The respect shown towards Liverpool before, during and after their 2-0 win over Sheffield United was a sign of clear dominance in the Premier League.
A show of steel it was then.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Sheffield United came to Anfield with a premeditated plan to play as deep as they did.
The way Liverpool constantly pressed Chris Wilder’s team back into their own half on Thursday night was nothing short of incessant.
A Joy to be Beaten By
Meanwhile, Liverpool are so good now that we have arrived at the concept of an opposing manager enjoying the experience of losing to us.
The marvellously likeable Chris Wilder eulogised effusively about Jurgen Klopp’s men after this one, even declaring that he loves everything about them.
This was the most un-Sheffield United, Sheffield United performance of the season.
They are a team that doesn’t let you settle on the ball, they can move it around with pace, vision and guile. They wring every drop of energy from themselves, making it a monumental task to beat them.
It takes an immense effort to stop United playing their own game.
What Klopp succeeded in doing in neutralising and defeating United was that he had Liverpool play the visitors at their own game, while simultaneously playing the Liverpool way.
In this one, it has been suggested that Liverpool didn’t break out of second gear. I don’t agree with that however.
A great deal of effort was expended.
Jordan Henderson was everywhere. Winning the ball, getting out of tight corners, probing and instigating. What a midfielder the Liverpool captain is maturing into.
He was ably assisted by the ice-cool movement and decision-making of Gini Wijnaldum, while James Milner did all you could expect of a player whose mind was attuned to an evening sat on the bench, before getting the very late nod to replace the worryingly injured Naby Keita.
Then you have Virgil van Dijk, in the type of empirical mood that makes his massive transfer fee look like we properly had Southampton over. They really should have asked for three times the amount we paid.
Inch-perfect in the tackle, unerring in his positioning, like a Greek god when striding forward to join in the attack.
One run in particular deserved a better return ball, while there was one moment where he continued to linger on the edge of the United penalty area in anticipation of a returning ball, after a long clearance was sent downfield towards the Kop.
Van Dijk is a phenomenon. I never tire of allowing my eyes follow him around the pitch.
Yet you could say exactly the same thing about any player in this wondrous Liverpool vintage. They are once again 13 points clear with a game in hand.
The front three had an eclectic night of it.
Nothing quite came off for Bobby Firmino, while Mohamed Salah netted the all-important opener before throwing out an array of stylish shapes.
On top of this, Sadio Mane put in yet another impressive performance.
Mane is the line and length of this Liverpool team of ours. Game in, game out his output never really alters.
He brings pace, skill, awareness and observation. Sometimes he takes star billing, sometimes he is the best supporting actor.
Whichever role he is required to play, he gives the same level of attention to detail and commitment.
Whereas the form of Firmino and Salah can fluctuate to the point that they can frustrate at times, you never get that sense of a drop away in momentum when it comes to Mane. He is vital to our well-being.
Then you have the goalkeeper. Not much has been asked of Alisson lately. Fifty league games for Liverpool and only one defeat says it all though.
We are now over the ridge of the season. There are fewer Premier League games left to play than what are now behind us.
If the 2019/20 season was your standard working week, then this would now be Wednesday afternoon. Plenty of work still to be done, but eyes begin to check out the advancing weekend.
The remainder of January is treacherous, however, and no trophies are handed out for accumulating 58 points. We need to keep this relentlessness and intensity up.
Those are difficult travels to Tottenham, Wolves and West Ham, the last of those opponents hopefully getting a bit stale again by the time we face them, after their apparent ‘Moyes Bounce’ the other day against Bournemouth.
Our one and only remaining home league game in January is of course that most convivial of encounters, with Man United—the only team to so far deny us maximum points this season.
February and March are far kinder in comparison. Navigate January, maintaining the lead we currently have, and there really will be nothing to stop us.
So we have welcomed 2020 in at Anfield by celebrating a year unbeaten in the Premier League. What a year it threatens to be.
Hard work, but the mother of all parties lies ahead of us.