It’s been seven years since Brendan Rodgers was sacked by Liverpool and a prominent newspaper columnist has pointedly pointed the finger at Michael Edwards, their technical director at the time.
Edwards was described as having a ‘warm relationship’ with the owners of Liverpool’s Fenway Sports Group, ‘tapping’ on his laptop in an ‘air-conditioned office’ at the club’s training ground in Melwood as he led an approach recruitment campaign that had caused a rift with the outgoing manager.
Edwards offered no public response at the time, instead continuing his work privately, but there was a light nod to this now infamous critic when he announced he would be stepping down from his role at the campaign ends in November.
“Even writing these words feels a little surreal,” Edwards said in a statement, “but at the end of this season, I will be packing up my laptop and leaving my desk at the AXA Training Center for the last time.”
It was of course Jurgen Klopp, appointed four days after Rodgers was sacked in 2015, who oversaw Liverpool’s transformation in the years that followed. But the influence of Edwards, promoted to sporting director in 2016, has been no less significant.
“His contribution to our success is clear to everyone,” Klopp said of the man responsible for the signings of Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker and many others.
How Klopp’s XI against Man City took shape
- Alisson Becker (joined July 2018)
- Trent Alexander-Arnold (academy product)
- Ibrahima Konaté (joined in May 2021)
- Virgil van Dijk (joined January 2018)
- Andrew Robertson (joined July 2017)
- Fabinho (joined in May 2018)
- Thiago Alcantara (joined September 2020)
- Naby Keita (joined August 2017)
- Mohamed Salah (joined in June 2017)
- Sadio Mane (joined in June 2016)
- Luis Diaz (since January 2022)
In fact, with the exception of academy graduate Trent Alexander-Arnold, Edwards played a key role in identifying and signing all the players who started in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester City, shaping a team – and indeed a team – now chasing a historic quadruple under Klopp.
His impending departure will be a significant loss for Liverpool, who plan to replace him with his assistant, Julian Ward, at the end of the season. His immense contribution to the club’s recent success also gives their opponents on Tuesday food for thought.
Manchester United head to Anfield 19 points behind their old rivals, and the gap has only widened since Ralf Rangnick replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on an interim basis in November.
Rangnick represents United’s fifth managerial appointment since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. By the end of the season, four of them – starting with Louis van Gaal – will be gone since Klopp’s arrival at Anfield seven years ago.
The club are now hoping Ajax manager Erik ten Hag will put an end to the instability and bring United back to their former heights. The Dutchman has reportedly agreed on a three-year deal to take over this summer, with an option for a further year.
He faces a major challenge to change United’s fortunes, but Liverpool’s rise under Klopp shows that no manager can shoulder this responsibility alone. If Ten Hag is to succeed on the court, he’ll need his own Edwards-esque figure in the background.
Ten Hag had that at Ajax, working closely with their now deceased director of football affairs Marc Overmars for much of his tenure to build a team capable of dominating the Eredivisie and even reaching a half. -Champions League final.
But it’s up to United to show they can provide the same kind of support.
They at least belatedly modernized their structure behind the scenes, making John Murtough, previously head of football development, their first-ever director of football while former midfielder Darren Fletcher became technical director.
Matt Judge, Ed Woodward’s former right-hand man, continues to work on transfers and contract negotiations while Richard Arnold has taken over from Woodward as general manager.
The concern, however, is that all of these people have been involved, at least to some degree, in building the Manchester United squad as it is now – lopsided, very expensive and in dire need of an overhaul.
So while Klopp’s squad is tailored to his needs, with each signing acquired to fit a specific football philosophy, Ten Hag will inherit a hodgepodge of players who have been brought in under a series of managers. different, all with their own ideas. of how to play.
Most damning of all, however, is that despite finishing more than 30 points behind Liverpool in two of the last three Premier League seasons, Manchester United have spent significantly more on their current squad – £731m to £612m. pounds for Liverpool.
The decision-making process will need to be significantly improved when it comes to recruitment and patience will also be required.
Liverpool did not reshuffle their squad in a single window; they did it gradually. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah arrived a year apart. Alisson and Fabinho arrived a year later.
Manchester United fans will feel they have already experienced their fair share of disappointment in recent years. They are desperate to see immediate improvement. But it’s worth remembering that Klopp won nothing in his first three seasons at Liverpool, not even finishing above fourth in the Premier League.
It’s been a long and bumpy road to where they are now and the same journey awaits United under Ten Hag if they are to replicate their rivals’ resurgence.
Before that begins, Tuesday’s trip to Anfield, to face a side that scored five goals in October, may serve as a reminder of the ground they need to make up for.
Watch Liverpool vs Man Utd live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm on Tuesday; kick off 8 p.m.