Liverpool vs Manchester United at Anfield is always a match charged with intensity, rivalry and hatred. This Sunday, a week after the Hillsborough files have been released and a mere seven months since Suarez refused Evra’s hand, promises to be a match fuelled by real passion. However, as Ferguson states in his open letter to fans “It cannot and should never be based on personal hatred.” Both captains will release 96 balloons into the Merseyside sky in honour of the 96 who lost their lives supporting their team in an FA Cup semi-final and hopefully this, coupled with Ferguson’s letter, will send out the right message to fans from both sides of the divide. Nobody needs to hear chants about Munich or Hillsborough. I’d much rather Liverpool fans strolling home upset at United giving them a lesson the pitch!
As for the football and team selection Ferguson looks set to continue with De Gea in goal. De Gea looked rather impressive against Galatasaray in the week and will need to be strong in front of a Liverpool attack who, by the laws of averages, are due a good game.
Rafael is a nailed on starter at right back and, considering the magnitude of the fixture, Ferguson is likely to call upon Evra’s experience at left back. Expect, however, Buttner to ply increasing pressure on the Frenchman as the season progresses. The centre back pairing is going to be an interesting one. In my last preview I guessed that Fergie may rest Ferdinand in preparation for this fixture and it turned out to be true. Considering the magnitude of this fixture and Fergie’s trusting of his old guard I’m fully expecting to see Vidic and Ferdinand pair up in the middle.
United’s new preference for a 4-2-3-1 formation is likely to see Carrick and Scholes sit in front of this defence although Cleverley may have something to say about this. Carrick and Scholes are offering a composure in midfield that has been lacking for a while and also bring with them more experience in fixtures of this size than Cleverley.
In front of the central two I’m expecting to see Kagawa play centrally with Valencia out wide right. Who plays left is going to be a very interesting debate. Most fans agree that Welbeck is almost wasted out left but, being a Mancunian, Ferguson may opt to select him and marry his recent impressive form with his desire to smash Liverpool off the park. It can’t be ignored, as well, that Nani was pretty ineffectual against Galatasaray and may need to sit this one out. Many would debate that he’s one of the few players who can turn in a game in an instant so the jury’s still out.
Up front? That’s easy. Robin van Persie will lead the line and hope to emulate his Anfield performance in March where he won the match for Arsenal with a double including an injury time winner.
Brendan Rodgers is bringing Liverpool into this fixture in search of their first Premier League win of the season. This pressure, I feel, showed midweek in his selection. Rodgers rested several of his key players in an attempt to keep them fresh for this humdinger. Gerrard, Suarez, Johnson, Allen, Skrtel, Agger and Kelly were all rested and will expect to be named in the starting line up. Borini and new fan-favourite, Sterling got a break midweek too and will be pushing for a place.
On paper and current form United should walk this one. However, football isn’t played on paper and form goes out of the big clichéd shaped window for matches like this one. Throw in the pressure on fans to behave and the emotion surrounding the fixture and this could easily evolve into a rather tame affair. A one goal victory or a score draw would, realistically, be decent results – even though we’ll all be hoping for something better.
Liverpool (from): Reina, Kelly, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Gerrard, Allen, Shelvey, Suarez , Borini, Sterling, Jones, Carragher, Coates, Enrique, Henderson, Sahin, Downing, Assaidi.
United (from): Lindegaard, De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Vidic, Evra, Buttner, Valencia, Scholes, Fletcher, Powell, Carrick, Cleverley, Anderson, Giggs, Nani, Van Persie, Hernandez, Welbeck.
My Bet a Quid and Win Big (if you can afford it!) Tip
Kagawa to score first in a 3-0 win 135/1
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