- Until recently, Jordan Henderson was considered out of his depth at Liverpool.
- The former figure of ridicule has proved his worth this season.
- The midfielder plays an integral role for the European and world champions.
Virgil van Dijk defended stoutly. Andy Robertson motored forward from left-back. Georginio Wijnaldum buzzed around the pitch. Mohamed Salah scored the victory-sealing goal late on. But no member of that quartet was named Man of the Match after Liverpool’s 2-0 win triumph over Manchester United. That accolade went to Jordan Henderson.
The Liverpool captain was superb on Sunday. He snapped into tackles. His quick, firm passing set the tempo of his team’s play. He directed the action from midfield. And he was unfortunate not to score. His thunderous shot from the edge of the box crashed off the post early in the second half.
Henderson’s transformation is complete. He was once considered a liability for Liverpool. Now he is one of the most important members of a team that will soon be Premier League champions.
A slow start on Merseyside
Liverpool signed Henderson from Sunderland in 2011. He was not an instant hit. The midfielder was inconsistent in his early years at Anfield. He struggled to shine alongside Steven Gerrard, a club legend who possessed similar attributes but had more overall quality.
Henderson almost left in 2012. Fulham had a bid for his services accepted. Then-manager Brendan Rodgers told him he was free to leave. But Henderson refused. He wanted to stay and fight for his place. Slowly but surely he established himself as a regular starter, albeit one who continued to divide supporters.
Henderson thrives in No. 8 role
Rodgers made Henderson captain in June 2015. A few months later, Liverpool appointed Jurgen Klopp as Rodgers’ successor. The German deployed Henderson as his side’s deepest midfielder early on in his tenure. The England international grew in stature but looked constrained in that role. In certain games, he lacked positional discipline. This was not a perfect fit.
Liverpool signed Fabinho in 2018. Once the Brazilian had settled in England, he replaced Henderson as the team’s No. 6. The ex-Sunderland man returned to his more natural position of No. 8. From slightly higher up the pitch he was able to put his drive and energy to good effect.
Klopp moved Henderson back into Fabinho’s role when the latter suffered an injury earlier this season. The captain has not disappointed. At 29, Henderson is a more mature, intelligent player than when Klopp first arrived at Liverpool. He knows exactly what his manager expects of him. He is more adaptable and well rounded.
Klopp is among the world’s leading managers. It says a lot for Henderson that his boss would not swap him for anyone.