The fixture many people are looking forward to and probably for the wrong reasons will arrive this weekend at Old Trafford. It’s a fixture I dread every season, even more so this time round, for all the wrong reasons.
I always think back to the number of defeats we’ve suffered here, with the occasional good result here and there. United will be sore no doubt from being kicked out of the FA Cup few weeks ago as well being right in there in the title race, as much as it is a big game to us it is surely an even bigger game for them, especially with the Suarez Evra race row still fresh and the cup defeat of course.
Liverpool come to this game on the back of a home bore draw against Tottenham Hotspur (match report here) and Manchester United from a 3-3 draw away to Chelsea. Liverpool played a defensive master class but the attacking options were very limited until a match lacking Suarez came on, and by that time it was too little too late. United came from 3-0 down to claim their draw and on paper it looked like a spirited come back, with Rio Ferdinand as usual on twitter claiming it was the teams ‘never say die’ attitude that helped them, but for me it was Howard Webb that did, gifting them with 2 penalties at 3-0. An OptaJoe stat showed that a staggering 17% of his penalties awarded were to Manchester United.
Anyway! Both teams coming from draws, mixed with the race row and the rivalry itself I can’t see this being a draw, and I can see a red card as well, as there always seems to be at least one. Hopefully it’ll be the football that will take centre stage this time like both managers and fans want.
As for the team, Enrique is back as well as Suarez but I think I would start the both, we really lacked pace and imagination last week and I think we will really need it for this game, obviously this is all dependant on Enriques fitness.
If I was manager the starting 11 I’d pick is this-
To me, this looks like a good mix of defence and attack with a good counter attack potential, which I think is the most likely route of goals for this game aside from set pieces. I opted for Kuyt over Henderson due to his experience of big games and work rate, also dropped Bellamy for Suarez so that Bellamy can be an impact sub in the second half. If Carrolls form is still there I hope he can be a good target man for us again, this time Suarez is available to be able to latch on to these balls and go from there, I’m really looking forward to their partnership here. Everything else is the same from the spurs game. We need Adam and Gerrard to be bossing that midfield and cut Uniteds possession, which they dominated in the FA Cup fixture.
As for the result it’s a tough one, I think the winner will be a clear winner and it depends who gets up and going first, if Liverpool set up shop and just park the bus we will be in for a long afternoon and I can’t see us doing that for 90 mins, but if we take the game to them and show no fear I think we can get something out of this. Manchester United at Old Trafford is one of the hardest fixtures to get anything out of in Europe and they never make it easy, they like having possession and rarely waste it, they pile pressure on opponents and if you do that a goal is not too far away.
Key areas for me are (sounds obvious) the midfield and wings, Gerrard and Adam will need to stamp their authority early on, and Johnson and Enrique will need to make sure they don’t give the on form Valencia a chance to deliver a cross or Evra to make runs inside offering Rooney a tap in on a plate. And I really hope Webb isn’t the official…
As for the result itself’ my head says United win but my heart says Liverpool win. Both 2-0. Either way, I just hope it’s a fantastic game and without any stupid incidents.