IT must have stuck in the craw of many supporters. But when Stewart Downing this week stated Liverpool could learn from Manchester United, there would have been few Anfield followers voicing their disagreement.
Last weekend’s Old Trafford defeat brought into sharp focus just how far Brendan Rodgers’s side have to travel to get within touching distance of their bitter North West rivals at the top of the Premier League.
It will be a long, painful process. But few experiences will be quite as discomforting as Liverpool’s limp first-half performance against United.
With Rodgers swiftly dismissing suggestions his team lacked the appetite for a battle, the scrutiny then turned to the mental strength of his players.
Why did they pay United so much respect?
Why did they only start playing when two goals down?
Why did they not really show belief they could win?
Having persuaded Liverpool’s squad to believe in his football philosophy, evidently Rodgers’ next assignment is to make the players believe in themselves.
That Liverpool had so many youngsters in their side experiencing the fixture for the first time suggests such self-doubt shouldn’t have been surprising; Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and Joe Allen were all appearing in the Old Trafford fixture for the first time.
It prompted Rodgers to echo the pre-match calls of captain Steven Gerrard for greater experience within the squad.
But while the Liverpool manager questioned whether his team are 24 points adrift of United in terms of quality, he admitted there is a chasm between the consistency and strength in depth of the teams.
Downing agrees. “Well if that’s what the league says, then yeah, we are 24 points worse off,” he says.
“I just think it is about consistency.
“When Manchester United don’t play well, they will win.
“They struggled in the second half yet they won the game.
“That is what we can learn. Being hard to beat when we are not at our best. When we do play well, we murder teams.
“But when we don’t play well, we don’t exactly get results.
“That is probably a learning thing for us.”
Downing adds: “When you look at the league, you see places where you might be able to go and get a result and that will help you jump forward. We’ve done that a couple of times this season.
“We have given United two tough games this season but we haven’t even come away with draws. We have to play like we did in the second half, no matter who it is against.
“If you believe in the way you play in, you will always have a chance.”
Backs-to-the-walls victories require character, something that will only be gained over time by the young squad or brought in during the transfer window.