Let there be no mistake: Liverpool deserve huge credit for their decision to row back on plans to furlough non-playing staff.

But is it too mischievous to suggest that Manchester City's decision not to apply for the government credit scheme had a bearing on the reversal of policy in what was becoming an increasingly unmitigated PR disaster for the Merseyside club?

Certainly, the timing indicated as much. On Saturday, Liverpool opted to announce their decision to pursue the furlough option. A statement read: “Even prior to the decision on staff furloughing, there was a collective commitment at senior levels of the club - on and off the pitch - with everyone working towards a solution that secures jobs for employees of the club during this unprecedented crisis. There is ongoing active engagement about the topic of salary deductions during the period matches are not being played to schedule. These discussions are complex and as a result the process is ongoing."

By Sunday afternoon, City had released a statement saying they would “not be utilising the UK Government's Job Retention Scheme”.

As former players Jamie Carragher and Stan Collymore, and the Spirit of Shankly fans group, lined up to condemn Liverpool, it became clear that the club had underestimated the mood. Liverpool supporters have long identified themselves as the club of the left, a belief that stretches back to the days of legendary manager Bill Shankly.

Shankly's socialist credentials have been seized upon by Liverpool supporters. His words have been emblazoned on T-shirts, his stories of life down the mines chiming with the people of a shipbuilding city who knew all about hardship. Football had given Shankly the chance to escape the privations of life in a mining community when he left Glenbuck in darkest Ayrshire to join Carlisle United in 1932. He was a regular visitor to Alder Hay Children's Hospital, the epitome of a man who still remembered his roots.

“The socialism I believe in isn't really politics,” he would famously say. “It is a way of living. It is humanity. I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day. That might be asking a lot, but it's the way I see football and the way I see life.”

This was a betrayal of Shankly's socialism. It devalued, too, any claim on Shankly's communitarian principles as club ethos, a view espoused by chief executive Peter Moore last year.

It was a reference to a past characterised by their Scottish manager's adherence to working-class values and man-of-the-people populism. Yesterday, The Guardian carried a blog asking what Shankly might have done in the face of a pandemic. It concluded by saying 'not what Liverpool are doing now'.

And so, with the tide of opinion threatening to engulf the club, coupled with their title rivals adopting the moral high ground, it seems Liverpool were forced to act. It raised a significant question: if they had been able to make a turnaround so quickly, why had they pursued furlough in the first place? Moore's statement suggested the club's hierarchy had spent all of the weekend reviewing those decisions and perhaps that is so.

There was a rush to slap backs following Liverpool's decision. Certainly, as is in the cases of Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, it is better than no u-turn at all. Indeed, there has been no contrition from other big business leaders, billionaires who have – yes, we're looking at you Philip Green and Richard Branson – sought government aid with nary a consideration for the optics.

When the United owner Mike Ashley announced in the aftermath of lockdown that his employees in Sports Direct were key workers, there was a similar backlash. Again, the volte-face by Ashley was almost immediate and yet there was no outpouring of well wishes for the 55-year-old. With good reason, an MPs report into the treatment of Sports Direct employees in 2016 concluded that staff were “not treated as humans”.

Everyone is entitled to change their mind and allowed to show contrition. But in doing so, the overwhelming feeling is that big corporations, companies or even football clubs, are merely in damage-limitation mode; reacting to the public outcry. Liverpool will have looked at Spurs and Newcastle as the first dominoes to fall, but those clubs have not played on their socialist links or presented themselves as the club of the people. The backlash was always going to be more severe for them.

Yes, Liverpool deserve praise for admitting their mistake, but even in doing so there was an air of defiance with Moore noting: “In the spirit of transparency we must also be clear, despite the fact we were in a healthy position prior to this crisis, our revenues have been shut off yet our outgoings remain. And like almost every sector of society, there is great uncertainty and concern over our present and future.

“It is an unavoidable truth that several of these scenarios involve a massive downturn in revenue, with correspondingly unprecedented operating losses. Having these vital financial resources so profoundly impacted would obviously negatively affect our ability to operate as we previously have.”

It was a warning that redundancies may follow. So it's worth remembering that Liverpool, the seventh richest club in the world, posted pre-tax profits of £42m in February for 2018/19 and paid £43m to agents alone last season.

This column was updated after Liverpool reversed their decision to place staff on furlough