“Thiago was laughing when he came off, he was laughing at Manchester United all game. I don’t normally swear on the Gary Neville podcast but he took the piss out of Manchester United tonight.”
These were the words of G-Nev following the demolition job Liverpool did on rivals (historic, not sporting) Manchester United last night.
Poor Neville, alongside commentator Martin Tyler, who was equally heartbroken, had just witnessed Thiago dancing around sandbags dressed in United shirts – and it was all getting a bit much.
The Spaniard chuckled as he waltzed off the pitch, with Jurgen Klopp sparing United ten more minutes of chasing his shadow by allowing Thiago a breather before the weekend. One leg of his shorts had vanished, but the boss confirmed in his post-match interviews that there was no injury.
“Thiago ripped his shorts! I thought it was something else (like injury). He’s fine…
“He played a good game.”
Thiago walks off and is applauded by Anfield and Klopp,
— B/R Anfield (@lfc_allting) April 19, 2022
That’s perhaps the understatement of the season, Jurgen.
It’s not often that Mo Salah scores twice, gets an assist and a subbed-off-early midfielder gets Man of the Match instead.
As Salah told Thiago in a joyous, surprisingly candid chat with Sky Sports immediately after full-time, “The crowd were singing your name all game. You were the only one they were singing!”
Salah likes his individual awards and deserves them, but there were no hard-feelings from the Egyptian King about the accolade Thiago received yesterday.
Thiago didn’t put a foot wrong. The only passes that didn’t find a Liverpool foot or an onrushing attacker’s stride were one or two outrageous side-foot, no-look assist-attempts, that were only cut out by increasingly desperate, stretching United defenders. It was about as touch-perfect a performance as you’re likely to see.
Even Thiago's inaccurate passes show us how good he is.pic.twitter.com/Bsb6AXJicJ
— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) April 20, 2022
Compilations on Twitter of special individual performances usually get 50-100 retweets, mostly when there’s been a lot of hype about the game. The one below of Thiago, without a goal or an assist, is up to 13,000 likes and counting already. There was one that had 4,500 retweets before this morning, but was removed for copyright reasons. Surely the Premier League should see that content so beautiful simply advertises their product to the world…
You should really, really watch this. Maybe in the garden with a cuppa, or a cold-beer if it’s after lunch:
Thiago vs Man United pic.twitter.com/oK9eN6aQrf
— LFCComps (@LFC_Comps) April 19, 2022
There was a time last season when pundits speculated Thiago slowed Liverpool down. Utter nonsense. How can a player who regularly plays off just one-touch and fizzes forward passes at every opportunity slow a team down? He injects pace into proceedings at will.
The issue last term was that we had no centre-backs and therefore had to play a different style of football. Our line, often, was not as high as it is now which stifled our creativity. We couldn’t squeeze a game, so Thiago was simply sitting on the ball with nobody making runs into space ahead of him. That’s all changed now, with vibrant crowds and five world-class attackers working like crazy to reward his vision and artistry.
As someone eloquently said at the time when Thiago was blamed for our mid-season collapse, “If I get sunburn every time I eat an ice-cream, it’s not the fucking ice-cream’s fault, is it?”.
Those outside of the UK were lucky enough to have Peter Drury on commentary duty, instead of Tyler, who insisted that at 2-0 down, United, without any shots on goal or any possession of note, were rattling Liverpool.
On Thiago, Drury said, “This man does things with footballs which ought to be illegal”.
Thankfully, his passing-range, dribbling and vastly-improved tackling has yet to be outlawed and might just be pivotal to the greatest season in football history. One trophy down, three to go, and all that.
Thiago was still very good last season, especially at its death when he found consistent fitness, but it’s true he’s found a new level. He used to pick up too many yellow cards and make rash tackles, but he times them so much better now. Bullish off the ball and a wizard on it, he’s the perfect midfielder.
Xabi Alonso was a joy to watch, but Thiago is better. He’s technically sharper, can beat a man and is quite fast over short distances, which makes him more effective. This isn’t a slight on Xabi. He was great, but the only midfielder of the Premier League era who you could argue is more talented as an overall package than Thiago is Steven Gerrard.
The caveat? Keeping the genius fit. He’s started 14 Premier League games this season out of 32. Not good enough. Just four in the Champions League, too. A 40-game-a-season Thiago would be loudly recognised as the world’s best controlling midfielder. For now, we see him not as often as we’d like.
But the fact Luis Enrique leaves him out of the Spain squad has done wonders for us. He had two weeks off at the end of March and has now played a part in six consecutive matches in our winning start to April. Perhaps Klopp will allow him a rest against Everton at the weekend, as he always rotates heavily for the Derby, but Thiago will be back in the XI for the midweek Champions League tie versus Villarreal that follows.
Stay fit until the summer and Thiago might prove YouTuber Chunkz’ post-match declaration true…
Thiago Alcântara do Nascimento is the best midfielder in the world
— Chunkz (@Chunkz) April 19, 2022