Brendan Rodgers to take inspiration from Manchester United ahead of new season
Brendan Rodgers says Liverpool will take inspiration from Manchester United in their attempts to recover from the agony of narrowly failing to end a prolonged title drought.
Rather than dwelling on the pain of missing the chance to win the Merseyside club’s first championship in 24 years last May, Rodgers is pointing to historic precedents where heartbreaking defeats preceded an era of success.
Manchester United’s experience in the early 1990s, he says, is seen as a parallel.
In 1992, Alex Ferguson was on the verge of ending a barren spell in pursuit of the title but it was a year later when they began a glorious new era. Rodgers also notes how the likes of Bayern Munich and Chelsea suffered torturous Champions League defeats before claiming the prize.
“If you look at the history of the winning teams they have always come close,” Rodgers said. “You look at the United team that won it in 1993, they came close in 1992 when they lost it to Leeds.
"They came back the following year and won it. That set up an era of winning for them. You look at all the teams that won the Champions League when they just missed out a year before or two years before.
“I think it is a part of the process of winning. What it has done with this team and this group, it has made us even more unified and stronger to be more successful in the future.”
When United lost the title to Leeds in 1992, Ferguson told his players to remember the pain and use it as motivation. Rodgers is adopting a similar mindset.
“Absolutely, that’s what drives you,” he said. “Everyone is remembering the Chelsea game. The Crystal Palace game was not the one. The Chelsea game was the one. A draw at Palace would have been all right. For me there was no real hangover.
“I was so proud of how we as a whole club got together last season. The supporters talking about making them dream. There is no negative in it for me. We went so close but it is only the beginning for us.
"I’m super hungry to be a champion and succeed and in the short period of time we have shown we have the credentials to do that. We reinforce the team and the squad and we will go into it with even more belief with a group of young players who are hungry too.
“I want a trophy this year. My sole aim in the first three years was to get us into the Champions League. I knew what it meant to the supporters, the city, the taxi drivers, the people, businesses – so my drive was to get us back. Now I want the club to win the big trophies again. The expectancy this season is continual improvement. We want to win. To be successful is winning trophies.”
The difference between United in 1993 and Liverpool in 2014 is that Ferguson went on to buy his best player – Eric Cantona – while Rodgers has just sold his.
Luis Suárez is the latest in a series of superstar players who used Liverpool as a stepping stone in their careers, the Uruguayan following Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano in passing through the club.
Rodgers says this is a reflection of the changing mindset of players rather than evidence that Liverpool are now perceived as a selling club.
“All the big clubs lose the big players at some point,” Rodgers said. “That’s reality and that’s life. It’s not due to any lack of ambition – we showed that least season with Luis – but it’s the modern player and the modern agent.
"Liverpool is not a selling club, but sometimes you lose your best player and the key is planning your success beyond that.
“It’s more than football. It’s a social aspect where these players come in from South America and the like and they are not going to set up camp for too long.
"They see it as a pathway back to their own country. Luis had his time here and has looked to move on. He will be in Spain for a time and then end up back in South America.
“All you can do is sell the club and the position we are in. We’re in a really healthy position now. The conversations we’ve had with players and agents has shown the power of the club is back again. Now we just need to have success and that will help us keep players.”
For all the expectation of a fresh title bid, Rodgers admits the first priority is to protect the top-four status they took so long to re-establish.
“I do not feel any more or less pressure to do that,” he said. “It’s where the players have to be and where I want to be so that’s where our focus is, our first aim is getting fourth guaranteed and from that we aim higher.
"That’s how it was last year. In another year, if the point at Crystal Palace was securing the Champions League we’d have been doing cartwheels.
“It was a smashing season and it’s given us the drive to kick on. That’s the aim. Champions League and then when you get that, go beyond that.”