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Manchester United take on Liverpool this Sunday in a game seen as the biggest of the Premier League season. With the controversy of the Evra/Suarez situation hopefully in the past, we can concentrate on what’s likely to be a red hot contest. With 14 red cards issued in recent history a lot will be expected of Howard Webb to keep things under control. The last five games between the sides have seen two wins each and a draw suggesting that form may not necessarily count for a lot. Here we take a look at each sides season so far, injuries, a potential United line up for the match and a superb view from the opposition. Comments are welcomed from both sets of fans.
A view from the opposition
I was fortunate enough to have a chat with big Liverpool fan and host of Channel 4s Sunday Brunch Simon Rimmer to discuss the season so far and what’s ahead. You can follow Simon on Twitter here – @simonrim.
WHAT HAVE YOU MADE OF LIVERPOOL SO FAR THIS SEASON?
A tricky one. At times we’ve looked half decent and threatened to play some good football but then we’ve had games like Stoke (away) where we were absolutely awful. The big difference has been Luis Suarez who has taken what at times has looked a mid-table side and made us look half decent. As long as Suarez stays on form we can continue to consolidate the position we are currently in.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON BRENDAN ROGERS’ STYLE? HAS HE SETTLED WELL?
I was fortunate enough to travel with the team and Brendan to America in the summer so I got to know him well. He’s an excellent talker and gets his point across to the team well. He has a clear philosophy and is working hard to implement it. It will take time and no doubt he has a tough job ahead. As well as trying to bring in players who can fit the style he wants, he also needs to remove the players not suitable going forward. We need to give him time but I’m happy with the way we are heading.
WHERE DO YOU EXPECT TO END THE SEASON?
A realistic position would be 7-9th for where the team is right now. Looking at it from a long term view it may be better to consolidate this season rather than plunging money into taking a gamble on pushing for 4th. If we can then build on what is a solid defence and look to get support for Suarez and Sturridge we can look to move up next season and onwards. There is plenty to build on going forward.
DOWNING, HENDERSON AND CARROLL ARE BIG MONEY PLAYERS WHO HAVE FAILED TO DELIVER. CAN YOU SEE THEM ALL MOVING ON?
I can see Carroll and Downing being moved on in the summer, the problem we have is that both will result in major financial losses. Henderson is a player I still feel can play a role at the club. When I’ve seen him in action or speaking about the club you can see how much it means to him to be at Liverpool. Being only young and with a will to do well I think he can still make a success of the move.
The perfect three players to replace them would be Alonso, can Persie and Sneijder but realism dictates that such players are not on our radar right now. The bigger concern for me is the poor state of our worldwide scouting network. The current state of the club means we should be using our scouting network to unearth the cheaper players such as Michu, Cabaye and Cisse. Clubs such as Everton, Newcastle and Swansea seem able to make use of scouting and going forward it needs to play a bigger role for Liverpool
DO YOU THINK SUAREZ IS VILIFIED BY THE PRESS AND IF SO, WHY?
He’s taken on the role of the ‘pantomime villain’ mostly as a result of the diving which he was guilty of when he first arrived. The Evra situation brought more focus upon him and his actions. I don’t think Suarez is racist, more foolish and the differences in cultures had an impact on the situation. The problem was made worse by the FA’s handling of the situation which poured more fuel on a fire they should have been trying to put out.
In recent months he has really cut down on the diving but obviously his reputation remains which is harder to shift but hopefully fans are now seeing his more positive parts to the game. He was the biggest diver since Ronaldo but now that’s being cut down and he’s scoring goals like the one against Newcastle which are world class. Hopefully he can continue to move forward and improve his image.
WHAT HAVE YOU MADE OF UNITED THIS SEASON?
I think van Persie has been the big difference for United this season. He is just an incredible talent and Ferguson took a gamble on him that has paid off massively. That’s one of Ferguson’s biggest strengths, when he buys he buys talent that can make an impact.
Whilst United have looked dodgy at the back even if Liverpool are 3-0 with 5 minutes to go on Sunday, I still wouldn’t be confident of winning. That sums up the amazing belief in the team right now.
Whilst van Persie has taken the headlines I also think Michael Carrick has been good this season and the likes of Giggs/Scholes backing him up is always going to be good for you.
IF YOU COULD TAKE ONE UNITED PLAYER WHO WOULD IT BE?
Robin van Persie. At 29 he’s getting better and it also sums up Liverpool’s current buying policy. With our policy we would not be signing a player like him but instead spending money on prospects and younger players. For the money you paid for van Persie we signed Borini and Sturridge yet van Persie’s influence is much greater. If you factor in the shirts sold etc of RVP compared to say Sturridge it’s a higher transfer fee that probably brings in much more money. A great steal from Ferguson.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST UNITED VS LIVERPOOL MEMORY FROM OLD TRAFFORD
The 4-1 victory in 2009, not just because we dominated you that day but also the chance it represented that day. Despite the European win a few years before we were playing some fantastic football at that time. With the likes of Torres, Alonso and Gerrard in top form it all appeared set up to be built on in the summer but unfortunately that wasn’t the case and we went backwards.
WHO IS YOUR GREATEST LIVERPOOL PLAYER OF ALL TIME?
No doubt it’s Kenny Dalglish for me. I’ve gotten to know him well through work I’ve done with his charity and he’s a wonderful guy. It’s not just the fantastic footballer he was but everything else. At the time of the Hillsborough disaster he was at the forefront of making sure the club was represented at the funerals of the fans, he himself attended 50 of funerals and that spoke wonders for the man he was.
Simon’s prediction for the game is a tight 2-1 win for Liverpool.
Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones are the only confirmed absentees. Both have resumed training but Sunday will be too soon for them to feature.
Jose Enrique is out for several weeks with a hamstring injury so Andre Wisdom appears set to replace him in the team.
Quotes in build up to match
Sir Alex Ferguson:
(On Luis Suarez)
“I don’t know whether he enjoys [being controversial], but it is something we hope we don’t suffer from ourselves.”
(On United and Liverpool Rivalry)
“Over the years, the Liverpool-Manchester United games have been relatively free of controversy – nothing really sensational in terms of decisions that marred the game, and that is good.”
(On Liverpool’s Current Situation)
“The club at the moment is a hell of a challenge because they haven’t won the league for 20 years. It is a long time… it is difficult to measure any Liverpool side at the moment with any Liverpool side of the past… I think it is terrific if the Liverpool fans are prepared to be patient because it is going to require patience. It is a long road back to what they used to be.”
(Mood in Liverpool Camp)
“We go into the game in a really good moment having won seven out of our last nine games. We have good confidence and good belief… what I’m starting to see now, in the last couple of months, is the courage to play and that is important. To go to one of your rivals and to have that courage and belief to play our own game, is something that we will look to do.”
“I’ve got to say, his quality has never been in question. People obviously judge him on his goals, and maybe he has not scored as much as he has in the past, but the role and responsibility he has in this young team now is slightly different… what I’ve had from him is incredible leadership. He’s a wonderful man. Everyone judges him by what he does on the field, which is world class, but this is a guy who is world class off the field as well.”
(On playing against Liverpool)
“I always enjoy playing against Liverpool, either at Anfield or Old Trafford. Hopefully this is another good, exciting and winning occasion for us”
[Courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk]
Potential Manchester United Team
Evans and Ferdinand look to continue in the middle of defence with returns to full back for Evra and Rafael. With the expected absence of Wayne Rooney it’s likely that Carrick and Cleverley will operate in midfield with either Kagawa playing just in front or Hernandez partnering van Persie. Valencia and Young will look to exploit space out wide as both sides are likely to play in 4-2-3-1 formations.
Robin van Persie is certain to be up front and look to build on what is an excellent record of goals against Liverpool in recent years.
A look at Liverpool
Brendan Rogers is working in a job that will clearly take time to get right. The signs have been there with confident performances against Sunderland, Fulham and QPR in recent weeks. Poor results however against Aston Villa and Stoke have emphasised that the issues with Liverpool as a club and team will not be solved overnight. The acquisition of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea will hopefully ease the goalscoring burden on Luis Suarez who has been in sensational form this season.
Brendan Rogers style of possession football is taking shape but individual errors continue to halt progress being made. The expected re-signing of Tom Ince this month should hopefully take some pressure off Raheem Sterling who has made a great impact in a short time for such a young player. It’s likely Liverpool will create chances on Sunday but being able to take them will be the bigger issue as Liverpool remain wasteful in front of goal.
To sum up, the work being done by Rogers is obvious but most level headed Liverpool fans can see it’ll be a while yet before they are back where their fans feel they should be.
The way both teams are creating chances it’s highly likely that the game on Sunday will contain lots of goal mouth action and hopefully goals.
Liverpool will look to keep the ball away from United’s skill players in order to nullify the threat of United going forward. Downing and Sterling will likely be the wide players getting forward to support Suarez and put pressure on the United fullbacks. Andre Wisdom is likely to come in at right back with Glen Johnson moving to the left back slot to replace the injured Enrique.
United are likely to make up for the loss of Rooney with Kagawa playing just behind Van Persie. Valencia and Young are set for the wide roles to put pressure on the young Wisdom and out of position Johnson. Carrick and Cleverley will continue to build on a promising partnership in midfield and outsmart the Liverpool pairing of Lucas and Gerrard.
The game looks set to be won in the final third and the support Van Persie will get should see United doing enough to see off Liverpool who will struggle to support Suarez.
What do you think the result will be?
I’m predicting a 4-2 United win.