A 3-4-3 diamond? Well, that’s new. Let’s have a bit of that shall we?
It was the ‘new’ that did it; the willingness to change, to experiment, to solve problems in play. For a mind numbingly poor first 45 minutes, Swansea were far and away the better side. They had the movement. They had the speed. They had the organisation. Their passing was crisper than ours, their desire deeper, their want greater. They did to us what we have done to so many over the last couple of years; they stopped us from playing, they imposed their will on us. They were, quite frankly, excellent. It was possibly the best half of football that anybody has played against us this season, certainly this calendar year since we decided that our job description was, once again, ‘imperious’.
We were second best. We were level but didn’t deserve to be so. Few players headed for the dressing room with credit; the towering Skrtel, the tireless Allen and the magnificent, reborn, rejuvenated Mignolet whose saves had kept us in the game. Nobody else.
And then we had a break and we had a think and we sorted ourselves out and we decided it was time to play some football.
One of the wonderful things about Brendan Rodgers when he’s on song is his ability to change personnel and/or system to affect a game. He showed this again on ‘his old stomping ground’ (copyright lazy commentators everywhere). He changed our midfield to a diamond with Joe Allen dropping deep to take the role Steven Gerrard took last season and then allowing the captain to return from injury in the position we never expected him to play again, the position that he influenced the ‘we go again’ charge from. And he did it again. He influenced and he held and he commanded.
And in front of him, we pushed further forward and we probed and we hassled and we pressed and we did everything that we didn’t do in the first-half. We were faster, we were sharper, we were in charge. There was invention and passion and all those things that we enjoy so much. We moved from a position where we were clearly on the ropes to a position where Swansea no longer knew what they were dealing with. We went from ‘bound to concede’ to ‘who’s going to score the second’. Swansea knew what we were at the start of the game, knew how to stop us ‘being us’, had a game plan, stuck to it and made it work. So we invented another system and took charge. It was as beautiful a 1-0 away victory as you could hope to see. Eventually.
Six clean sheets, six clean sheets AWAY FROM HOME in succession. Equalling a Shankly record that’s stood for forty years. Not conceded a goal away from home since United put that third against us on the 14th of December. That’s a turnaround. Tonight was a turnaround, December to now is a turnaround. On Sunday we get the chance to complete that circle. United at Anfield. Two points off fourth. Victory against Van Gaal’s lads will take us above them. Already only four points off second. Everything is in our own hands.
You know what this is don’t you? This is last season’s run-in again. This is the bit where we say, ‘it’s not a case of how many games you have to win, it’s just a case of winning the next one. And then the next one. And then the next one. Until the 24th of May. By which time we’ll have a nice shiny cup and - go on, let’s say it, let’s aim to capitalise on City’s capitulation - second in the league.
We build for next season from now. It’s no longer about the idea that ‘we go again’, now it’s that ‘we just keep going’.