Friday, 10 February 2012

Man United vs Liverpool Preview - including View from the Kop

With one of the biggest matches of the season coming up on Saturday at Old Trafford when United take on their old foes Liverpool, I had a chat with Liverpool fan Matt Stephens to get his view on progress of his team this season and his expectations for the match.

Liverpool currently lie seventh in the Premier League. Did you expect to be in this position or is it below expectation?

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. However, as bad as it sounds 4th was always the target for most realistic fans which is still very much achievable. What is disappointing is our lack of goals and how we have struggled at home. Seems we miss creativity and consistent finishing. 

What will be seen as a decent season for Liverpool? Would a cup win compensate for missing out on the top 4?

Frankly no. It will lessen the blow but 4th to me is the target. 

Briefly, what was your take on the Suarez/Evra affair?

Think it's almost impossible to deal with this briefly. But I think it's important to point out that Suarez was found to be guilty on the balance of probability. Its not beyond a reasonable doubt so it leaves room for any reasoned person to agree or disagree with the reports findings. I don't agree, not because I 100% believe Suarez or that I support Liverpool Football Club,  but on reading the report I came to my own conclusion that differed to those of the FA, and to those opinions of  some of your readers. 

Would you agree that the affair has been a PR disaster for the club?

Without a doubt. Whoever was in charge of Liverpool's PR needs to be sacked. However I will say that the club doesn't deserve all the slating in the press it received. Some press reporting has been a joke. Some of it has been deserved. 

Liverpool FC do not see Suarez as a racist. They do not agree with the findings of the panel thus they see themselves as backing their player against an incorrect charge. People need to realise this. I'm not saying they need to agree with it. 

What are your memories of Liverpool/United clashes over the years? Is it still viewed by fans as the biggest game of the season?

For me  it is THE biggest game in the year. Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea Man City, Spurs, although big games do not give me butterflies before kick off. I still get that nervous feeling!

I have many memories of Liverpool/United games over the years but the one that sticks in my mind most is January 1994. I was on a family holiday in Tenerife and remember thinking when United went 3 up that this was the worst holiday ever. Obviously things changed. 

Worst memory was the FA cup final. It was a terrible game. But then that's  probably because we lost!!!!

Dalglish's signings have, on the whole, been questionable. What is the view of Liverpool fans on this?

I've fallen out with some of my friends over this. I tend to give players my full backing for at least a season before I pass judgement. I like to remind my friends of my stance on Lucas while they slated him and now he has turned into a great player for us. 

Carroll: Dont think Andy will never be a £35m player. But then Torres won't be a £50m player. Andy has shown glimpses in the last 3 games of why we bought him. It's not his fault he cost £35m. If he gets a chance he will be very important for Liverpool but just like De Gea for United I don't know if he will get that chance.

Suarez: Simply put I rate him highly. Leaving all the controversy aside he is a quality player. Just wish he wasn't so wasteful with the ball.

Downing: I expected more to be honest. Last year before we signed him I trawled the villa forums and consensus for the most part was that he was a better player that Young. Sadly, I just think that he is lacking confidence to actually push on and beat the fullback. This might be because Enrique is so aggressive at getting forward and downing sees it as easier outlet to pass to him. 

Need to stress that we have the worst chance conversion rate in the league. Downing has created many goal scoring opportunities that haven't been put away. He has been somewhat unlucky in that regard. 

Enrique: Kenny's best signing. Great player. Just wish he didn't think the game was a 90 minute WWE slot.  Watch him when he next plays, every tackle is a wrestling match.

Henderson: I rate this lad a lot. Very intelligent with the ball. Runs all day (so would
Heskey I know). Another that has been laboured by the weight of his price tag it seems. Somewhat unfairly by the press in my opinion. 

Adam: On the fence here. Started superbly but always giving away free kicks. Can't tackle. Surprisingly high number of assists though. 

Bellamy: Awesome bit of business. Love the annoying wee shite. 

Coates: Haven't really been able to see him due to our defence playing so well, but looks promising from what I have watched of him. Think he was brought in to replace Carra with thought that Skrtel wasn't really in the picture but he (Skrtel) has been one of our best players this year.

Where do you see the game on Saturday being won and lost?

This is going to sound awfully simple but I think our problems in front of goal will be a major factor. For us to win we will need to score at least twice as I can't see us holding you out for 90 minutes.

If we sit back too much, the Old Trafford crowd will spur the team on more than what they did at Anfield (obviously) and as a result it will be harder to keep the granny banger and Co out.

What are your thoughts on United's season so far and who do you see as our dangermen ahead of the game?

Seems to me that everyone is slating your squad but I can't see why. With the injuries United have had this year and you are sitting in 2nd?!? However a club like United, it probably has been disappointing due to the FA Cup (yeooooo) and Champions league exits (yeoooo). 

It still has an excellent chance of being a very good season with you sitting where you are in the league.

Danger men : Nani (if he turns up) Rooney, Young, Hernandez. Old cliché but you can score from anywhere. The one player who has stood out for me lately though is Valencia. Hope he doesn't play on Saturday.

If you had to pick a side combined with Liverpool and United players, who would be in your first team?



Johnson   Skrtel        Agger         Enrique (evra was never going to get picked)


               Gerrard       Scholes 

Valencia                                 Suarez 


Disclaimer1:  I know. It's biased. I don't care. 

Disclaimer 2: I don't rate ferdinand. 

Disclaimer 3: I love Lucas. 

Seriously though, our defence has been awesome this year hence the selection. However Vidic would definitely be there if fit. 

Finally, what is your prediction for the outcome of the game?

I hope they have a minutes silence / applause for the Munich victims. This needs to be respected by all Liverpool fans. 

If you offered me a draw now I'd take it so with that in mind I'm going for 2-2. 

If Suarez starts, I'm predicting that he will be yellow carded and subbed. I also think he will score. 

A big thank you to Matt for taking the time to answer these questions. If you want a balanced and humourous Liverpool fan (who doesn't?!) to follow on Twitter then you could do a lot worse. He is always up for a debate and although he will fight his corner from a Liverpool point of view, he is not averse to criticising the club when appropriate.

My thoughts on the game:

As Matt says above, for both clubs fans this is still the biggest game of the season. There is no other match that gets the butterflies flowing than the visit of Liverpool to Old Trafford. This tends to bring out the pessimist in me and I start to have nightmares about Gerrard kissing the camera for the umpteenth time and of Bellamy skinning Rio for pace as he has done previously.

The manager's selection dilemmas come in the centre of midfield, out wide and up front. I see no reason to change the back five from last weekend with Rafael at right back being rewarded for his excellent recent form. Smalling and Jones are likely to be missing so Ferdinand and Evans should continue in the centre. Although Giggs started in midfield at Stamford Bridge, I think Scholes will get the nod tomorrow. There is talk of Cleverley being thrown straight back in after a three month lay off but this would be risky in the extreme given his injury record so I would have him warming the bench. Valencia will play right in the continuing absence of Nani with Young on the left edging out Giggs and Park. The former may well come on in the second half and attempt to weave the magic seen at Arsenal and Chelsea in recent weeks. Up front, the choice of Rooney's partner comes down to Welbeck or Hernández. The Englishman's recent form coupled with the Mexican's lack of quality outside the box swing the decision in Welbeck's favour for me but either way the movement and pace of these two will test the solidity of Agger and Skrtel.

For Liverpool, the main selection question is who to pick in forward areas where the likes of Bellamy, Kuyt, Suarez and Carroll are all vying for starting places. It is likely that Dalglish will go with just one up front and if so then Suarez must be favourite with Carroll left on the bench. Bellamy and Kuyt could play wide to help counter United's threat in that area. The atmosphere will be red hot if Suarez was to start but it would not surprise me to see the heat taken out of the situation by Dalglish picking Carroll and leaving the temperamental Uruguayan on the bench. The former Newcastle flop has been in better form in recent weeks and means that the away side can play a more direct style.

Overall, I think the game will be very tight and I could make a decent argument for any of the three possible results. I will go for United to edge it 2-1 but I do so with very little conviction. With our bench once again looking strong, it could perhaps be our well renowned game changers who have a big impact.

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  1. Winning goal should be left till late whichever team does the final scoring!

  2. bit harsh there anon... correct spelling would be bull...thought the article was fine, balanced opinions from two fans, what exactly is your gripe with it?