That was rough.
The inevitable had been accepted, there was no need for Guardiola to add torture to the usual wealth and brilliance.
But that’s what we got, a brief glimpse of Typical City; like a faded rock star giving us a few bars of the hit before ploughing through the new two-hour confessional LP no-one cares about.
We’ve said for weeks the Reds were running out of gas, but somehow they’ve pulled resilience out of those weary bones. You can’t help loving them.
It resembled 2019 in many ways; same pathetic visitors, a brief hope extinguished swiftly and (importantly) cup success the not insignificant consolation(s). The title stands over everything, but other competitions can’t be glossed over, especially when you’ve reached all the finals.
It was a season of two halves. With Konate added and Van Dijk back, another area began to creak slightly. Thiago’s fitness was still a factor, doubts over Jordan’s longevity and Ox’s contribution saw Wijnaldum’s departure look corrosive. Promising kids couldn’t paper over that crack.
Up front we were as good as ever, Jota compensating for Firmino’s decline. There were huge wins at United and Everton, but without the ultimate prize? Rib-tickling anecdotes, not glorious chapters.
Salah was sensational for half the season, enough to be crowned footballer of the year though he’s struggled of late.
Afcon took him beyond physical limits. A whole tournament mid-season wasn’t ideal, each game stretching into penalties. It hasn’t affected Mane as much, buoyed by triumph perhaps. Perversely, when Liverpool’s talisman wilted, results got even better.
Thiago began to look the part. Regular defensive blockades were dissected by his scalpel passing, while the addition of Diaz was a masterstroke.
It felt like attacking overkill, but just as well since Jota couldn’t keep his amazing run going and Salah was jaded, by contractual controversy as much as by excessive workloads.
Bear in mind this title challenge ran alongside fulfilling every single cup obligation, an extraordinary feat of endurance and talent.
We’ll always be in the lap of the gods where City are concerned. We’ve tried to keep up - challenging in itself – but to overcome them will take miracles, or their own lapses, and we left ourselves too much to do.
We can point out obvious failings; losing the lead twice against Brentford and City themselves, squandering two-goal leads against Brighton and Chelsea, beaten at weakened Leicester when a Salah penalty could have meant easy points. It just feels churlish somehow. Klopp now has the three greatest league performances in red history, and one title.
Could it be karma for those clubs who almost achieved greatness in the 1970s and 1980s, but cursed our name with monotonous frustration? If that’s the price to pay, for peaks past and present, it’s been worth it.
You can’t even call it a taste of our own medicine since LFC has never been in ruder health than this. Two cups, a third possible. Weird sort of suffering… Van Dijk’s return was the lynchpin, explaining last season’s setback and justifying claims he is the best we’ve ever had at the back.
That said, it feels like there’s work to do in summer. Contracts could be a stumbling block, and not just the obvious one.
The squad will need work. Origi is going, Oxlade-Chamberlain probably not far behind, Mane rumours persist. A new stand to pay for, the owners’ diligence will be tested. The acquisition of Diaz was a surprise, let’s be honest.
But any adjustments will be to keep us in this exalted, almost mesmerising position. Could yesterday even be described as a disappointment?
To keep it going seems too much to ask but ask we will. Others are invading pitches because they weren’t relegated, if you needed any neighbourly perspective.
Rivals want to tear us down however great it’s been. “No Quadruple”? As a taunt, it’s slovenly in its bitchiness. It’s one we wouldn’t mind hearing this time every year.