Manchester Untied travel to Anfield this weekend to face our old foes Liverpool, who will no doubt want their messiah Kenny Dalgish to inflict a first league defeat of the season for Sir Alex Ferguson.
United have started the season well and have only dropped two points (as a result of a draw away to a physical Stoke City side) so far. Their attacking, vibrant and exciting style of play has seen them so far score 24 times in the league. However in their last two league games (against Stoke and Norwich City) they have had to work harder and clearly teams are now realising that they are going to have to play a more defensive game (4-5-1) to keep United’s blistering attack down.
Liverpool on the other hand have had an indifferent start to the season. Despite drawing at home to Sunderland and losing away to Stoke and Spurs, they have looked a far more brighter side to watch this season than last year and have deservedly beaten Arsenal, Bolton, Wolves and Everton last time out to go into the big game this coming weekend in fifth spot in the table.
Kenny Dalglish has (whether you like him or not) changed the mood of the air at Anfield and without a shadow of a doubt has brought his attacking style of play to the fore. It has been great to see Liverpool go back to their traditions of being a team who have a strong British/Home-grown core to their team. The likes of Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and the two young full-backs (Martin Kelly and Jon Flanaghan) have all showed their worth so far this season and that’s something that Liverpool’s fans you can sense are pleased about.
Last season’s encounters between United and Liverpool were far from ordinary - not that there ever has been a dull game between the sides. In the three games played, United won two with Liverpool winning the last game between the sides which coincidently was at Anfield where thanks to Dirk Kuyt’s ‘gift-wrapped’ hat-trick they won 3-1.
United will want to put in a dominant display this weekend and make sure that they go into the weekend after next’s game with Manchester City still top of the table. Incredibly it’s been four years since United beat Liverpool at Anfield where they won 1-0 thanks to a first-half strike from Carlos Tevez. Sir Alex and the boys will be desperate to win this weekend and inflict a third league defeat of the season for Dalglish.
So what can we expect the key battles on the pitch to be?
Phil Jones v Luis Suarez
Uruguayan Luis Suarez impressed in last season’s encounter at Anfield running Wes Brown and Chris Smalling ragged (there’s an understatement) as his energetic approach play helped Liverpool control the game right from the start. There’s no doubting that he has the god-given talent to hurt United.
Phil Jones though has had a blistering start to the season and has dealt well with everything that’s come his way this season, including the pressure of playing with a £16m price tag on his shoulders. He’s strong in the tackle and a good reader of the game. Suarez though with his movement and quick link-up play will be a test for him this weekend though.
Nani v Jose Enrique
One of the stories of United’s blistering start to the season has undoubtedly been the form of Portuguese winger Nani. He has started the season in style scoring five goals and setting up four, playing in a style that is now beginning to win over fans all around the country.
His marker this weekend will be Jose Enrique who has quickly settled into life at Liverpool after joining from Newcastle United. Last season he was one of the best left-backs in the country and if he keeps his form up cannot be too far away from winning a national call-up for Spain. Nani cannot take Enrique easy this weekend and will have to keep his head up and work hard.
Wayne Rooney v Jamie Carragher
Jamie Carragher has been a legendary defender for Liverpool and might possibly be their finest defender since Alan Hansen. Whilst he has never been the quickest, in terms of bravery, commitment and leadership there are few better defenders around than the ‘Bootle Boy’.
He’ll have to do his best this weekend to keep Wayne Rooney quiet. After being sent off for England against Montenegro last week, United’s star striker will be looking to bounce back in style this weekend on a ground where he has only scored once beforehand. Rooney though might have to drop deep in this one to hurt Liverpool who will want to frustrate him all game.
In terms of a prediction for the game tomorrow, as I stated earlier on in a predictions article, I believe that this is going to be a tough match. I can see United scoring but think that Liverpool with the game being at Anfield will be hard to beat, so I can see it being a 1-1 draw.
Of course I would like United to win, but considering our record at Anfield over the last three seasons a draw wouldn’t necessarily be a bad result for us, although if we were to win it would mean that we would go into the Manchester Derby in two weekend’s time on top of the League which would be a bonus.
By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87