Robin van Persie will hope to be on the scoresheet when Manchester United take on Liverpool
Manchester United host Liverpool in the 190th match between the two clubs. United haven’t lost at home to the visitors since the 4-1 defeat back in 2009. At that time, United were in the hunt for a second successive European Cup, the Premier League title and the FA Cup. As we now know a Andres Iniesta inspired Barcelona, with a little help from Lionel Messi, stopped United from reclaiming the European title, whilst David Moyes’ Everton beat United on penalties in the semi-final of the cup – with Dimitar Berbatov taking a horrendous spot kick. United did go on to win the title, three on the trot.
Fast forward half a decade and United are looking up at their rivals who are now 11 points clear. It is highly unlikely United will qualify for the Champions League, even with thirty points left to play for. United will be hoping a win over Liverpool will help to raise confidence ahead of the return Champions League fixture on Wednesday, with the home side 2-0 down from the first leg.
We caught up with Shaun Curran, who you can follow on Twitter here. Shaun discussed Luis Suarez, David Moyes and whether or not Liverpool can win the title this season.
1) How would you describe your season so far? Can Liverpool win the league title?
The season was been brilliant, beyond anything we could have expected. I thought we might just fall short of the top four in August, but we are certainties for a top four finish now, which in itself would represent a great season. It’s not just the position in the table, either, it is the way we are playing. We look like we are going to score every time we get the ball and it is thrilling, amazing stuff. I’ve never enjoyed watching Liverpool so much in my life.
I think we *could* win it, yes, but if I’m honest I don’t think we will. But the fact that you even asked me the question tells you everything about how things have turned around for us. And the manager has to take the plaudits for that.
2) Luis Suarez has probably been the best player in the league this season, how does he compare to past Liverpool forwards?
People that have been watching Liverpool for longer than me have said he might just be the best, so I’m not going to argue with that. He is the best I’ve ever seen (and I grew up on Robbie Fowler!)
3) Steven Gerrard has been impressive in a deeper position. How long more does he have at the top and what have you made of his season?
He has been very good this year, and I think he has a couple of years left, especially if, as he looks to be doing, Rodgers will fill the other positions in the front six with pace and energy. He is never going to the box-to-box, explosive player he was at his peak under Rafa (who never gets the credit for turning him into that player) but, despite what people think, he is intelligent enough to learn this role and retain his huge influence.
4) Brendan Rodgers has rejuvenated Liverpool since taking over from Dalglish. Are you surprised by his work or did you expect it?
When he got the job, I was cautiously optimistic that he would do well eventually but the improvement this season has been phenomenal. When he was appointed, Liverpool were not in a position to attract an established winner, and with a smaller budget than other top four contenders (meaning we were a long-term project) so a young, progressive coach was the only way to go.
I was very impressed with Swansea under him, both in terms of style of play and how sound they were defensively, keeping 14 clean sheets in their debut top flight season (the reason why, when it became obvious it was a straight choice between him and Roberto Martinez, I wanted Rodgers) and I was happy enough when he got the job. Obviously, this came with the caveats that he had very little top flight experience and he had a hell of a job on his hands.
But after a difficult start the improvement has been unbelievable and his tactical development has been astounding. Nobody jokes about his obsession with possession anymore, because he has adapted the way we play to turn us into a relentless attacking force, either with the ball or on the break. That has really impressed me, and you can tell with his public performances that he has really grown in confidence. We can certainly improve at the back, although constant injuries have not helped, but he has done a brilliant job. Who thought Liverpool would be second with ten games left?
5) What have you made of Manchester United this season?
Ok, I’ve stopped laughing now. Seriously: it has been a disaster and if they were to get knocked out by Olympiakos, a poor, poor European outfit, then the season could not have gone any worse. And I hope you understand when I say that I have been waiting my whole football-watching life for United to have a season like this, and it is even funnier than I ever imagined.
6) I presume you’re still laughing, as you were in September, over David Moyes. What have you made of the United manager since the autumn?
Even I couldn’t have dreamed he would have been this bad. I can’t believe how quickly it has unravelled and if he isn’t replaced this summer, the damage could take a long time to reverse – you only have to Liverpool post-1990. Even forgetting his previous (unremarkable) record at Everton, why does he deserve another season? What has he done that makes you possibly think he will ever make a successful United manager? There is no plan on the pitch, the football is dull, and unimaginative and everything he says off it is embarrassing a la Hodgson at Liverpool. Of course, it goes without saying I want his reign to be a long one. David Moyes is a football genius!
7) Robin van Persie looks a shadow of the player he was last season. What do you think is the issue and will he be off in the summer?
I think if Moyes stays he will go, because Moyes is the problem. Or more accurately, the way Moyes sets you up and starves him of service, bar the dozens of crosses that get launched into the box every game. As an aside, I’m not sure why United fans are surprised that he is showing a petulant, selfish streak – for me, that has always been part of his make-up.
8) What is your most memorable United vs. Liverpool fixture at Old Trafford?
I am big fan of the ‘Danny Murphy years’, especially that second 1-0 in 2002 (what a good goal that was). But it has to be the 4-1 in 2009.
9) How will Liverpool lineup, what will be the score and who will be the match winner?
I think Sterling will come in for Allen, because he could give Evra a torrid afternoon. Otherwise, unchanged from Southampton. Suarez and Sturridge will make the difference and I think Liverpool will win 3-1.
10) De Gea or Mignolet, Vidic or Skrtel, Januzaj or Courtinho and lastly Suarez or Rooney. Who do you pick and why?
De Gea. Mignolet is a good shot stopper but I am not convinced about the other aspects of his game (I think I can kick it further) and De Gea’s improvement since a dodgy start has been impressive. Even though he is on the wane I would probably take Vidic over Skrtel, who is so inconsistent. But I definitely wouldn’t swap Coutinho or Suarez. I wouldn’t swap Suarez for anyone. He can do things with a football that Rooney can only dream of.