David De Gea thwarts Raheem Sterling in the 3-0 victory over Liverpool back in December
In what is the 192nd meeting between the two clubs, Manchester United travel to Anfield to take on a Liverpool side two points behind as the battle for a Champions League spot really heats up. Liverpool have looked a different side since the turn of the year and have won five of their last six matches. United’s general form is also good, although a disappointed 2-1 defeat away at Swansea City means United have only won two of the last six away games.
Louis van Gaal starts a run of of four matches that sees United’s take on Liverpool, relegation strugglers Aston Villa, Manchester City and Chelsea. The Dutchman will know that United have to pick up three points at Anfield to stay ahead of the pack and also send out a message. United last won at Liverpool in the autumn of 2012, when Robin van Persie slotted home the winning penalty. A repeat of that will be most welcome today.
If you want to see the action and watch United take on City at Old Trafford, you can buy Manchester United tickets through Ticketbis.
We are joined by Mal, a life long Liverpool supporter, who is pretty confident ahead of the tie today. We caught up on Jordan Henderson’s excellent form, where they’d be if Luis Suarez was still at the club and whether or not Steven Gerrard is the best Premier League player of all time (ahead of Giggsy?!). You can follow Mal on Twitter @mal_a_ .
1) How would you sum up your season so far? Happy with progress?
Curates egg isn’t it… good in parts. The last few months have been pleasing, the ones prior to that not so much. But our manager is younger than me and he’s still learning his trade. Some might say that Liverpool is a club that needs a big name, someone who already knows what they’re doing. I say two things to that 1) if you think you know everything you aren’t willing to learn & you stagnate (see current England manager for details) & 2) someone who wants to learn, do well & prove them self, i.e. a striver, is undoubtedly a good thing.
2) You’ve been in top form in 2015. What do you out this revival down to?
Hard work. Better team play. And the manager having had the balls to change things. Also, he’s had time with the new arrivals; give him half a chance & he makes good players even better…
3) Jordan Henderson has come up with some big goals and performances recently. Just how good a midfielder is he? How good can he become? And what did you make of Fergie’s “he runs funny” comment?
Well, he’s very good. Very, very good actually. And only 24. And he conducts himself so well, I saw him talking to a ref recently (he’s the captain, it’s allowed) and he had his hands behind his back & listened politely when spoken to, a credit to his parents. Better than all that haranguing of refs that happens so often, I reckon it’s more productive too… 😉
There are some people who will never put the comparison with Steve Gerrard out of their minds. I pity them.
And as for the ‘he runs funny’ comment, my opinion is nothing like as interesting as what Fergie must be thinking given the level of his performances over the last 18 months… Especially when there’s been so much said & written about your own midfield over that time frame.
4) What have you made of Liverpool’s summer signing? Are they starting to repay their fees?
Balotelli will be shipped out this summer so I’m putting him to one side; it smacked of desperation after Sanchez went to Arsenal and was probably the worst move we’ve made in the transfer market for a good few years…
The rest though..? – the rest will do ok. They say 50% is a reasonable hit rate in the transfer market. So after 6 months or so (which is no time at all really, I’m no fan of snap decisions), I reckon we’re above that mark. Can is a Rolls Royce, Lallana is all elegance & balance, he glides (which is a quality I’ve always admired in a footballer). He hasn’t convinced everyone yet but I love him to bits, he gets the winner in this game & he’s everyone’s favourite player. Moreno is as good a left back as we’ve had in the last 20 years (disagree with that & name me a better one who’s played for us…); that’s not to say he’s exceptional but he’s young, very quick & will only improve. I could make similar comments about Markovic, he’ll get there. Lambert was no gamble at £4m, Manquillo is on a free & Lovren really felt the pressure to start with, not everyone copes with it. On balance a good summer, exchange Balotelli for Sanchez & it would’ve been an exceptional one.
5) If you still had Luis Suarez, where would you be in all competitions right now?
As a football fan you take the rough with the smooth (far too much of the rough in his case) but for what he could do with a football I loved the wee guy. I laughed my arse off when he knocked England out of the world cup. And again when he did for City in the Champions League. Would he have made a difference? Probably, players that good tend to, but he was banned until 24th October & has only started hitting top form for Barca in the last couple of months (as have we). So when we could really have done with him, he would’t have been available anyway… We’d probably have a few more points as the revival might’ve started a few games earlier but we’d still have been out of the Champions League. Our exit from that competition had little to do with the players. That was down to inexperience (manager & players a like, the whole club these days actually…), look at how long it’s taking City to get used to playing in it… You hire a young guy (& we did that 100% deliberately) then you have to accept the bumps along the way as they learn.
6) United were excellent against Tottenham playing a 4-3-3. What are your thoughts on how United have played this season? The signings and who will finish top four this season?
I’m sure that the recent upturn (at least in terms of hitting the back of the net) has gone down well on the Stretford End. My impression more widely is that you’ve been scraping & scrapping for things more than you’ve been used to. And that the style you had been used to has been noticeably absent. And that not everyone is happy with it but while the results roll in (& they have been rolling in) you’ll put up with the style that has been getting those results… It doesn’t make for the happiest of camps but while the results roll in…
On your signings, it seems to me that Di Maria has to be the main talking point. It’s a lot of cash to then play him out of position. Kinda mystifying really, doesn’t seem that joined up, or maybe he’s just not settled? I don’t know but it all seems a bit odd that such a talented player isn’t cutting the mustard. Maybe that’s paper talk? Maybe his numbers are better than they’d have you believe but £60m is a lot of cash & with it comes certain expectations. I don’t think it’s paper talk to suggest he’s a bit below them. Still he’s a very good player & I’m happy he’s out of the game…
You priced us out of a deal for Luke Shaw & he’s hardly impressed. We picked up Moreno instead for less than half the price, right now I’m not swapping. Shaw has all the talent in the world, and has a the capacity to be better than Moreno which is why he cost more. But too many pies in the summer & then too many injuries since have severely hampered his progress… He’s got age & talent on his side so I think he will come good if he’s got the right people in his ear…
Top four? – there are certain stattos on twitter who’d have you believe that on current form it’ll be City who drop out. I doubt that, it’ll come down to Chelsea, Arsenal, City + one. That’ll be either you or us. Enjoy the Europa League… 😉
7) What do you think of van Gaal as a manager?
He wants a last hurrah. You might be the club the provide it & he might just be stubborn enough to get it.
8) Is Steven Gerrard the best player to have worn a Liverpool shirt?
He’s outstanding. Undoubtedly the best English player of his generation. Arguably the best Premier League player of his generation too given that he’s been in the PFA team of year 8 times (more than anyone else since football was reinvented). But to answer the question, no, he’s not even the best Liverpool player to have worn the number 8 shirt… (for the record he’d be 3rd on my overall list).
9) If you had to rate Gerrard, Keane, Robson and Souness – how would you? (1 to 4)
Ok, this is as a player only because after his ‘relationship’ with The S*n I don’t care for the man himself too much…
Souness then Gerrard. Obviously. Then the others in whatever order you guys fancy… 😉
10) What is your all time Liverpool Xi?
Mind you, it’d probably change if you asked me again is a few days/weeks/months. I wanted to put Emlyn Hughes in. And Tommy Smith (though I’m too young for him really). Some people will look at that team & say it’s short of that player who just dogs it out, and they might be right. So maybe Ronnie Whelan. But then Kevin Keegan’s not there. Nor Ray Kennedy. And Sami Hyypia. And Jamie Carragher. And Robbie, my god Robbie… (first name on the bench). Then there’s Xabi Alonso. And Jan Molby (he nearly gets in just on the strength of this… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5laOqk-ku0A – he never moved like that. Never. But he did then). And Peter Beardsley. I could go on, but you probably don’t want me to so I’ll stop…