Up four it: Liverpool’s improvement means a Champions League spot might still be in sight this season
A member of Everton's coaching staff admitted to me this week he'd watched the game at the Etihad on Sunday, and thought 'uh-oh, they're starting to look like a team'.
He was referring to Liverpool of course, and the alarm bells were ringing because their rivals from across the park are showing signs of putting together some consistency in their play, which could yet have implications for the top four race.
If you are a Reds fan, then the performance at City was encouraging, even if some of the mistakes which cost victory weren't. It was the same at the Emirates in midweek, and at Old Trafford too, where Liverpool were far superior in the second half and deserved more from the game.
What is interesting, is fans of others teams seem to be giving Liverpool more credit than their own supporters. The speed of passing, the movement and the clarity of thought at City even drew grudging praise from the home terraces.
Yet down Anfield way there is still caution, perhaps summed up by Liverpool's own keeper Pepe Reina, who admitted even before the game the club can't compete with the likes of City right now, because the squad lacks depth.
Bench: The Liverpool squad simply doesn't have the depth of the Manchester clubs or Chelsea
The timing was unfortunate of course, especially because of the mistake made by the Spaniard that cost all three points and an important victory. But Reina has a point that should not be obscured by the fact Liverpool have matched and even outplayed all the big teams when they've met.
Rodgers doesn't have the luxury of the transfer market to make instant fixes like United, City or even Arsenal do. His signings are restricted to young players of promise who can deliver future value.
There is a comparative lack of experience in the Reds squad, and certainly a lack of depth that the other top squads have. Even now, his options from the bench tend to be young players like Sterling, Shelvey and Borini who have real potential, but are a long way from the finished article.
Contrast that with City's bench on Sunday, and the likes of Tevez, Nasri, and Scott Sinclair all ready to come into the game to make an attacking difference. That is probably £50million of striking talent held in reserve, and United and Chelsea have similar options.
So of course Liverpool can't compete with that sort of firepower, and Reina was right to point this fact out. United and City have been in trouble in so many games this season, but have been able to call on their bench to dig them out.
Spot on: Reina was correct in his assertion that Liverpool can no longer compete with clubs like City
Liverpool are following another route, which requires patience and understanding, and I suspect that is why many of their fans are not getting too carried away by the promise of recent weeks.
Yes, they take pride in the achievements of a frighteningly young side, and yes they are beginning to put faith in what Rodgers is trying to do. But there have been too many false dawns over the past decade to believe everything will be resolved in one season.
Last summer, Liverpool were in a mess after years of mismanagement at boardroom level and some wild spending both in the transfer market and on wages. They are still trying to sort that mess out.
There are still players on big money who are probably surplus to requirements but can't he shifted on because of the size of their wage, and waiting for their contracts to expire is the only realistic option.
In the meantime, with budget restrictions in place as the current owners attempt to impose a sensible and welcome financial reality on the club, they have missed out on several targets because they are offered bigger wages elsewhere.
That is cause for frustration, but in the long term may be worth it, if Liverpool have a wage bill they can sustain. Ironically, Everton are a model for this. They have maintained a top six placing for more or less the last six years, whilst exercising massive financial restraint and should be commended for such an approach.
Keen to deliver: Samed Yesil is one of many players ready to fulfil their potential at Anfield
With their extra resources, there is no reason why - in the long run - Liverpool can't do the same, but perhaps with a top four aim. You look at their team on Sunday, and with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher showing incredible leadership and miraculous form, they are a match for anyone in a one-off game.
And if the likes of Sturridge, Sterling, Shelvey, Allen, Borini, Coutinho, Suso, Wisdom, Yesil and Kelly are able to progress and deliver on their obvious promise, then maybe there will eventually be the depth amongst the back up required to sustain a challenge at the higher level.
Some of the more reactionary of his critics have accused Rodgers of empty rhetoric, without any substantive onfield evidence to back his words. Yet the majority of fans will have been quietly encouraged by the performances since December, the odd blip apart.
This time last year, Liverpool were on a slide that saw them take 18 points from their last 19 league games, form which would have got them relegated over a season. From here, they may yet challenge for a top four place, especially as Chelsea continue to implode so spectacularly. Encouraging yes, but no one dares to get carried away.
It is with terrible sadness that I offer my condolences to the family of David Oates, a BBC journalist of more than 25 years standing, who died at the weekend at the age of 50.
David was an outstanding journalist, without question one of the best I have worked with, and more importantly a thoroughly decent man in a world that doesn't often recognise or reward such qualities.
In an age with the media under ever-increasing pressure and with journalistic standards eroded by the day, his professionalism and the sheer quality of his work was a beacon even as the gloom has descended.
He was a close friend and a dear, valued one, and to his wife Charlotte and daughters Imogen and Katy, I can only say he will be sorely, sorely missed by so many people, and that is a tribute to the incredible qualities David had as a man, as well as a journalist.
Filed under: Euro 2012
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