March 6, 2011, 18:55 PM, LIVE on ESPN
Twice every season, when Liverpool and Manchester United lock horns, the impact of the result is not focused on the premier league table or one’s title winning chances. The result always sends one set of fans in raptures while the rest bathe in ire. It’s all about a sweet victory. Well this Sunday is not going be any different, will it? Every Liverpool and Manchester United fan will only be hoping for the kind of game that epitomizes the rivalry and 90 minutes of beautiful football. It is a game that brings out a rainbow of emotions. One moment you are pulling out your hair because the striker missed a sitter and in the very next moment you are engaged in banter with your fellow friend because it was “clearly not a red card”. This is what Liverpool versus Manchester United is all about.
Anfield plays host to this big game on Sunday. Liverpool, although did put up a fight back, were the losers in the reverse fixture back at Old Trafford. But a lot has changed for the Reds since then. A new manager, two new strikers and a new assistant coach in the form of Steve Clarke have done the team wonders. Liverpool suffered its first premier league loss under Kenny Dalglish last weekend at the hands of West Ham United. And although their hold on the 6th spot seems to be strong, Dalglish is most likely to march ahead and get the most out of the season. Having already suffered a loss against the Red Devils in his first game in charge, Dalglish will no doubt be more prepared come Sunday.
March is a difficult month for the Red Devils and a loss against Chelsea is not the kind of start Sir Alex Ferguson had wished for. Manchester United have Arsenal lined up next in the FA Cup, following which they entertain Marseille at home in the Champions League; the first leg ending in goalless draw. Hence, it is more important that the players build up the confidence and belief at this stage, and playing against Liverpool is a true test of grit and determination. Unlike every season where we are witnesses to the mind games that emanate prior to this famous fixture, this time Ferguson has chosen not to speak to the press in lieu of avoiding further prodding from the media over his comments on referee Martin Atkinson, for which he was charged by the FA.
Team News and Tactical Briefs
The Reds have lost and gained from the injury pot over the week. The loss has been that of promising right back Martin Kelly. The 20 year old defender has been ruled out for 6 weeks due to a hamstring tear which means Glen Johnson moves to the right back spot. To now fill in the left back spot, Fabio Aurelio has been declared fit. Daniel Agger has also been declared fit; he was taken off in the game against West Ham last week.
In further comeback news, Liverpool’s new hero Raul Meireles has been declared fit for the game. But the news every Liverpool fan was waiting to hear was the return of Andy Carroll. Dalglish’s deadline day signing has been nursing a thigh injury for about two months now, but the wait might finally be over as the striker has been declared fit for the game against the Red Devils. However, he is most likely to start on the bench for this fixture.
Manchester United are missing their strongest centre backs for this game – Rio Ferdinand is out injured while Vidic is serving a suspension following for the red card he picked up against Chelsea. Dalglish must be well aware of this and is most likely to go with an attacking formation, presumably 4-3-3. But if Liverpool are to start off cautiously, then we might see a similar starting formation like the one Kenny put out against Chelsea. The Reds will be looking to cut off the supply from the United midfield; just like they did against the Blues; and if this were to happen, then expect Andy Carroll’s arrival on the pitch down the line, which will immediately impact the Liverpool formation – leaving two strikers upfront in a 4-4-2 formation.
Probable Starting Lineup: Reina, Carragher, Agger, Johnson, Aurelio, Gerrard, Lucas, Meireles, Maxi, Suarez, Kuyt.
The Red Devils face defensive worries as they travel to the north-west. Rio Ferdinand is still out due to injury while Nemanja Vidic is serving a suspension after picking up a red card. Hence it is either going to be Johnny Evans or Wes Brown to start alongside Chris Smalling in central defence. Left back Patrice Evra has also been declared fit after he initially picked up a knock in the game at Stamford Bridge last week.
How will the Scot cope with his defensive woes?
The midfield could see the return of the veteran Giggs. Paul Scholes, who is usually the first choice for this fixture could be starting on the bench since it is vital that Manchester United have a strong midfield if they are to beat the likes of Gerrard and Meireles. This could mean a midfield combo of Carrick and Fletcher.
Sir Alex Ferguson is most likely to start with a 4-4-2 with Berbatov and Rooney forming the strike force while Nani and Giggs are expected to start on either flank. Attack is the best form of defence they say, and this could be Manchester United’s best way to grab points at Anfield. With a weakened defence, their only option is to attack and make the best of every opportunity that comes their way. Watch out for Nani’s left-footed long rangers. There could be plenty of them.
Probable Starting Lineup: Van Der Sar, Smalling, Evans, Evra, O’Shea, Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs, Nani, Rooney, Berbatov.
Probable Team Lineups
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United): A goal against a team like Chelsea is just what Wayne Rooney might have needed. It has been a tough season for the former Evertonian but the Gaffer has not lost faith in him; after the game against Chelsea, he is sure to walk out on the pitch with the aim to cause trouble for the Liverpool backline. A win at Anfield will definitely strengthen Manchester United’s place on the top of the table and Wayne Rooney could be vital for that to happen.
Liverpool 2 – 1 Manchester United
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST