Jamie Carragher likely to have the last laugh on Gary Neville

Former Liverpool star Jamie Carragher, albeit rather hesitatingly, pondered Monday evening that the Anfield outfit could win it (the Premier League), only for former Manchester United legend Gary Neville to good humouredly stifle a laugh.

Well Liverpool may not end up winning the Premier League, but it looks likely that Carragher will be the one smiling come the end of the season.

Let's look at the facts. Liverpool started the season with relatively low expectations - maybe a Cup final, and a good run at the top four and a possible return to Europe. Things didn't look good, though, as star striker Luis Suarez was in the middle of a long-term suspension, and was trying his best to engineer a move away. And 33-year-old club Captain Steven Gerrard appeared likely to have to lead from the front and attempt to inspire Liverpool to success, like he has tried so hard to do for many years now.

Manchester United, on the otherhand, were the Premier League title holders and, although the club had a new manager and expectations were being managed by talk of a 'transitional season', no-one was fooled - with Rooney settled and RVP on song, what could possibly go wrong ?

And although Liverpool fans will tell you that they always had belief, being top at Christmas - and 8 points clear of Manchester United in 8th place - was certainly beyond their wildest dreams. 

But for Manchester United - 4 points above Southampton and struggling for a Champions League berth - is hardly what anyone had in mind - new manager or not.

Now the difference between success and failure this Premier League season will probably end up small - it's the most open title race for years, with Manchester City just edging it as favourites at present. But Liverpool can afford to look towards the second-half of the season with some comfort - with a fully engaged Suarez arguably the best player in the world at the moment, and the knowledge that the team can actually now perform well without skipper Gerrard on the pitch (in fact, some Liverpool fans feel that the club's best midfield formation doesn't even include him).

The same positive view of the future, however, doesn't apply to Manchester United. Champions League qualification is a must, and even finishing 4th, especially if Liverpool end up 3rd, will be a blow for a club used to Premier League bragging rights. 

Manchester United could still end up having a half-decent season (with a League Cup semi-final, the FA Cup and Champions League glory still to play for), but it's Liverpool who are the team to beat - and Gary Neville could well be laughing on the other side of his face come May.

image: © faisalzaman

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