Robin van Persie and his weird flappy arms are (hopefully) returning to form. Steven Gerrard looks silly here hahaha but he usually scores against United.
In what promises to be a
top-of-the-table clash battle between two teams in top form intriguing tactical chess match entertaining contest between two cavalier sides a game of football contested between two teams that hate each other’s guts, two teams that used to be really good at football – one quite recently, the other one not quite so recently – from two cities in relative mutual proximity that aren’t particularly keen on one other, Man United and Liverpool are due to clash on Sunday at Old Trafford. To preview the game we’ve been joined by Shaun Curran, who’s kindly answered some of our pre-match questions. You can find Shaun on Twitter here.
1) What have you made of Liverpool’s season so far?
How long have you got? No really, how long? I could write a thesis on this, but then again I could sum it up in two words: [The Stretty Rant is a family-friendly website, so we can’t include the original two words, however we can tell you that the phrase employed rhymes with “duck n’ Sprite.”]
Last season was a perfect storm of everything going right – Suarez’s form, Sturridge staying fit, Gerrard’s renaissance, Sterling’s arrival, no Europe, new managers at other top clubs – so we were never going to repeat a title charge, especially after selling Suarez, but consolidation in the top four was definitely achievable. This year, it’s been an (im)perfect storm of everything going wrong. From the hangover of last year, to Suarez leaving, to Sturridge’s injuries, to the fixture congestion, to all the issues with the new singings (some not good enough, some not settling, some overpriced, one of them is Balotelli) to the bloody goalie, who is hands down the worst in the league, if it could have gone wrong it has. Performances have been dreadful and the team is unrecognisable from the brilliance of last season. It’s been calamitous and at the moment there doesn’t seem to be an easy way out of the mess we’ve got ourselves in.
2) Why didn’t it work in Europe this season?
For all the reasons outlined above, we just weren’t good enough. It was that simple. A lack of experience didn’t help, but we were dire.
3) Luis Suarez – before the bite against Italy, was he staying with Liverpool or did that incident seal his fate?
He was already on his way, the bite just made it easier for him to get out. Once they put that release clause in the contract he signed in December the likelihood of him staying was always low, it was just a matter of the either of the big Spanish clubs deciding to go for him. We’d pulled out all the stops to keep him the previous summer, we could never have done that twice. Besides, when he bites someone again and gets a two year ban it’s going to look like a great deal. And he will.
4) What have you made of Steven Gerrard this season and the stalling of his contract?
Gerrard’s form and position in the team has been a debate that has been bubbling under the surface for a couple of years now. It was put to one side after January when we were on that outstanding run, but now it’s very much on the agenda. My take on it is he is on the wane and should just be treated like any other player now – if he’s playing well, he plays, if he’s not then he doesn’t. The days of him playing every match have to be over as he can’t play three games in a week and I’m glad that Rodgers has started to “rotate” him. I suppose the problem is when the team isn’t playing well and his replacements aren’t giving a convincing case for keeping him out of the team, the argument to keep relying on him remains. My personal belief is that Gerrard will be off in the summer. I’m not sure why he’s stalling on the contract otherwise.
5) Are you concerned Raheem Sterling will leave the club in the summer?
Not really. I suppose you never know what will happen in football, but all this talk of him going to Real Madrid next year is nonsense as far as I’m concerned. He’s not good enough to play for Real Madrid. He’s a prodigious talent with a great future, but Real Madrid don’t buy potential. They buy proven world superstars. In a few years, maybe, but not any time soon.
6) What transfers, in and outs, would you like to see come January?
Aside from a goalie, a centre-back, a right back and a defensive midfielder? A striker that can actually, you know, put the ball in the net has to be the priority, just ahead of a goalie. The goalie is woeful, although I’m resigned to soldiering on with Mignolet until the summer. But they spent that much in the summer that I doubt the money is there to buy the necessary quality, unless they manage to offload Balotelli or Borini. But Borini is like the drunk guy refusing to leave your house at the end of the party, so we might be stuck with him.
7) What have you made of Louis van Gaal’s first few months in charge and where will United finish?
I haven’t been very impressed and to be honest I don’t think you’ve been much better than we have. He’s spent an absolute fortune but I don’t see much improvement in performance level. Defensively you’ve been a shambles and if we swapped goalies we’d probably have more points (do you want to swap goalies? Or just take Mignolet anyway?) Even now you’re winning matches the performances have been really bad, like. How you’ve won five in a row I’ll never know. That is the only chink of light for us on Sunday, the way you have been playing. As for the season, given the money you’ve spent not finishing in the top four would be a terrible result and you’ll probably do it.
8) Who is the danger man Liverpool fans fear the most on Sunday?
If Di Maria was playing then I would say him, as he is the only genuinely world class player in both squads. But otherwise RVP is playing well (in front of goal, anyway) and has a good record against us. And you never want Rooney to score against you.
9) Who is the great United player you’ve ever seen?
It has to be Ryan Giggs, right?
10) What is your all time Liverpool xi?
Ok, from when I first started watching them (I went to my first match in 1991 aged seven):
4-2-3-1 Reina, Jones, Riise, Hyypia, Carragher, Alonso, Mascherano, Gerrard, McManaman, Suarez, Fowler.
Subs: Dudek, Henchoz, Babbel, Luis Garcia, Hamman, Owen, Torres
Writing that just reminded me that we haven’t had a good left-back for as long as I’ve been watching us, so I went for Riise because of THAT goal. Just thought I’d get that one in…
Theoretically, United are in better “form” having won 5 games on the trot. Liverpool, by contrast, are struggling in all competitions, having exited the Champions League in midweek. However, the majority of United’s play during that 5-game run has been uninspired, nerve-wracking and only marginally less defensively chaotic than earlier in the season. Moreover, it’s been a very long time since the last time United played well against their Lancastrian rivals, despite an improvement in results against them in the 2-3 years prior to Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement – and, since the club honoured Ferguson’s retirement by taking a year-long vacation from football to train for the Iditarod, this fixture was not played last season. Despite the absence of Luis Suarez, a tasty encounter awaits.