‘These are the days’ is a phrase that has been uttered by a growing number of Liverpool supporters in recent weeks.
Those four words will feature on the front cover of Liverpool’s final matchday programme of the 2021/22 season - and it’s a message many can certainly associate with.
The spirit around the club at this moment in time was clear to see as Manchester United hosted their rivals in a Legends match at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon, which painted a clear picture of the contrasting fortunes of both clubs.
LIVERPOOL LEGENDS PLAYER RATINGS: Mark Gonzalez stands out and Jamie Carragher jeered
LEGENDS RECAP: Manchester United Legends 1-3 Liverpool Legends
HAVE YOUR SAY: Pick your Liverpool team to face Wolves
Situated in the away section of the stadium, those who had made the trip along the M62 to be in attendance maintained the party atmosphere that has been witnessed in both of Liverpool’s two recent outings at St Mary’s and Wembley Stadium.
Despite being vastly outnumbered by home fans, it was the Liverpool supporters making all the noise inside Old Trafford – something they were keen to point out. ‘You’re supposed to be at home’ was one song directed at the United fans, who had seemingly focused all their efforts on booing Jamie Carragher each time he touched the ball.
The catalogue of Liverpool songs was never-ending during proceedings, with renditions of ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’, ‘I’m so glad Jurgen is a Red’, ‘Stand up if you hate Man U’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ being heard, and largely ignored, by the Red Devils.
That such an atmosphere was being generated by a crowd of fewer than 500 people was rather remarkable and spoke volumes of how it feels to be a Liverpool fan in the present day, regardless of the 11 players on the pitch sporting the shirt. Securing a second win of the campaign at Old Trafford was simply an added bonus, the performance of those in the away section had a greater sense of energy attached to it than the match itself.
So many of the players representing Liverpool on Saturday afternoon are still deeply invested in the club and remain in touch with the values and beliefs that are shared by supporters. Once you learn the Liverpool way, it’s hard to forget it.
At Manchester United, however, the current crop of players could not be further away from great Red Devils sides of years gone by. The club is in need of a cultural reset, in the hope of bringing back on board a fanbase disillusioned by a decade of decline.
The last time United staged a Legends match on home soil was at this stage of the season three years ago as 61,175 fans graced Old Trafford to watch Bayern Munich suffer a heavy 5-0 defeat. Yesterday afternoon, there were 12,398 fewer people (48,777) inside the ground compared to the club’s 2019 turnout.
The cost of living crisis and Covid complications has likely played its part in this fall in attendance, but it is also a sign of supporters letting their feet do the talking over their club's well-documented plight. United’s average home league attendance the season they were lasted crowned champions (2012/13) was 75,530 – a number which has dropped down to 73,150 for the current campaign.
Second-best on the pitch and in the stands, a selection of home fans headed for the exit doors the very moment Mark Gonzalez struck his second, and Liverpool’s third, in the dying embers of the charity match. There has been little to celebrate for the regular visitors to Old Trafford this term, which again proved to be the case in the final match staged at this stadium until a new era begins under incoming coach Erik ten Hag.
Perhaps what will have hurt most of all for United fans on Saturday was watching a group of players past their best displaying a greater desire to win - in a game where the scoreline carried little importance - than members of its current first-team have shown all year round. For the current crop, the gap to Liverpool just keeps on growing.