Liverpool Versus Manchester United: The Match We All Hate

It would be really easy to pretend that I’m not nervous about Sunday. After all, Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool team is absolutely on fire and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer probably isn’t even the most popular person in his house, let alone Old Trafford. The Red Devils are displaying relegation form and arguably have been since their former forward was given the job full-time last season. Not that anyone who knows anything about football is overly surprised that the man who took Cardiff City down and has been in charge of Molde seems to be struggling to turn around the fortunes of a side that hasn’t had an identity worthy of the name since Alex Ferguson retired. The club is in dire straits and it’s hard to see how they turn that around quickly. They need an entirely new squad, with plenty of sensible commentators struggling to think which of their players would make a combined XI.

Yet it’s still Manchester United and it’s still Old Trafford. Liverpool have had a pretty poor record there during the Premier League era and I struggle to feel brimming with confidence that we’ll be able to turn that around this weekend. That’s not based on logic, of course. The United team of the 2008-2009 campaign was significantly better than this one – indeed it would go on to win the title – but Rafa Benitez’s went there and smashed four past them. Yet Klopp hasn’t got a great record against the Red Devils and decided to be cautious during our trip to Old Trafford last season when they were absolutely there for the taking. Logically we should batter them, but logic doesn’t always come to the fore in derbies. Unless they’re against Everton.

We Sometimes Look Rusty Post-International Break

I have been working on a theory about why Liverpool sometimes look a bit rusty after international breaks. Obviously one key factor is that they haven’t been able to work with Jürgen Klopp on the training ground for a fortnight, meaning that they have to be reminded of how the Reds tend to play football. The reality is that absolutely none of our players are heading off to work with managers who are anywhere near the level of the German, with Gareth Southgate proving his ineptitude by his team selections. Unable to work with their club manager and out of the rhythm of playing, it’s little wonder that Liverpool players don’t look immediately convincing after they’ve been away from each other for a little while.

More than that, though, I think they over-estimate how good their teammates are after having played with poorer players when on international duty. People seem to come back and overhit passes, be too adventurous with their expectations of others in the team and generally seem like they’re wearing someone else’s boots. It’s almost as if they’ve played with no-marks for a fortnight, built up in their heads just how good the rest of the Liverpool team are and then expect far too much of them when they take to the field. We’ve played Manchester United a couple of times after international breaks lately and never quite seem to be able to hit our rhythm in the way we would have done before. There’s an argument we haven’t been playing all that well lately, though, so perhaps the break will have done us good this time around.

I Want Us To Show No Fear

When we played at Old Trafford last season we showed Manchester United far too much respect. Yes, they were in a good run of form at the time but they still weren’t anywhere near our level and Jürgen Klopp is a million times better as a manager than Solksjaer. They were afforded too much respect and the Reds should have put their foot on the Red Devils’ throat and squeezed the life out of them. If we had then it’s likely that we’d have won the title. Klopp’s cautious decision making was somewhat understandable, but those of us that remember how draws cost us the Premier League in 2008-2009 will always want a manager to be far more brave and risk losing in order to chase a win.

We’re rocking up to Old Trafford as the champions of Europe and should be swaggering around the place like we own it. Their supporters will be well up for it, but it won’t take much for them to turn on their own players if we can get a decent foothold in the match. We’re better than them in every department and should be absolutely desperate to press hold our advantage. Like heavyweight boxers up against featherweights, we can’t treat this as a sparring session and politely aim a couple of jabs at them. Instead we should be looking upon it as a chance to knock them out and get an easy win under our belts. Be brave, should be the message.

I’ve seen plenty of people crying it in regarding the possible absence of David de Gea and Paul Pogba. Perhaps they’ll both be fit to play, perhaps they’ll both be ruled out with injuries. I don’t know, but one thing I can say with absolutely certainty is that it doesn’t matter either way. de Gea isn’t the goalkeeper he once was and Pogba would be able to break into our midfield with a crowbar. Of course second-choice goalkeepers have played well against us in the past, but that’s not the sort of thing that we should be worrying about. There are no curses, no hoodoos or jinxes. Just a brilliant Liverpool team going up against a United one that is staggering against the ropes, so I want us to show no mercy.

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