It’s that weekend once again which brings with it anxiety and jitters like none other; everyone knows the drill, yet nobody knows how to calm those jangling nerves before these excruciating days leading up to matchday. Let’s say it as it really is, despite the gulf in league standings between the two sides in the recent past and the rise of a certain oil fuelled club in the city of Manchester, this duel still easily matters the most to every Mancunian and similarly to all Liverpudlians. Nothing can or will ever change that fact, when Liverpool face United the rest of the footballing world ceases to exist for the time being.
Divided by loyalty and united by the love of their adored club, the two sets of fans are at the partisan best or perhaps worst depending on the extent to which supporters let their feelings get to them. In the recent past, both contingents have been guilty of crossing the line and going overboard. None of the two clubs can take the moral high road and both must take their share of blame admittedly for the small minority that just can’t help themselves.
Nevertheless, this weekend is more than a bit special, extraordinary perhaps, keeping in mind what’s come about with the Justice campaign and the freshly aggravated wounds of the Hillsborough victims’ family and their fight for closure. Ergo, the occasion demands for total and absolute zero tolerance of those abominable and downright derogatory chants and gestures that spoil the spectacle for what it is – a game of football.
Liverpool and United have already taken measures to ensure the game proceeds without any transgressions and in the spirit this particular occasion demands. Before the match, the two captains – possibly Steven Gerrard and Nemanja Vidic – will lead their teams out and release 96 red balloons in honor and memory of the unfortunate victims of the Hillsborough disaster. Hopefully, that should set the mood for the afternoon and things in perspective, football rivalry apart, something’s are beyond all tides of football loyalty.
The game itself has a lot riding on its shoulders, and despite the enormity of the occasion staring us in the face, at the end of the day the real talking point has to be about tactics, formations, substitutions et al. Make no bones about it, the three points on offer would be worth their weight in gold for either side come the final reckoning.
Let’s have a close look what the game promises for two of the proudest clubs in Old Blighty and its set of supporters.
Liverpool FC: Will a win kick start their campaign or serve as yet another false dawn?
The red half of Merseyside have endured their worst start to a league campaign in over 100 years. The Brendon Rodgers revolution has hitherto been sluggish and sporadic in effect and although, signs are there of it all coming together and finally falling into place, a meager return of 2 points and no wins in four games must set Liverpool’s league ambitions back. The aspirations of the supporters must have taken a beating as well and with the notable exception of Joe Allen, none of the new signings would have sprung eternal in the hearts of the fans.
Nevertheless, the seamless integration of youngster Raheem Sterling into the first team reckoning must come as a pleasant surprise and create room for cautious optimism. Furthermore, this Liverpool side has kept the ball and moved it around markedly better than its predecessors and although results might point to the contrary, Rodgers’ side has been as good if not better than its opponents in three of their four games so far.
This weekend, the eternal enemy arrives studded with new signings and despite a rocky start, looking ominous and balanced than in the recent past. For what’s it worth, the Merseyside side will rise to the occasion and one can count on them to put in a powerful and action packed performance backed by the rapturous Kop. Liverpool can overcome United and that’s not up for debate but the question marks over a sustained run in the league shall remain even in case of a resounding victory. Also, the disparity between the strength of squad of the two clubs couldn’t be any clearer than a look at both benches and that will again be the case this weekend and one assumes throughout the campaign or at least till the January window.
On a positive note, a victory against a team of the caliber and pedigree of United could give the place a massive fillip and infuse much needed confidence in the squad. At times, it’s a matter of just self-belief and Rodgers and the Liverpool fan base could do with a positive result just to give him some breathing space so that the club can consequently reap the benefits of his approach.
Manchester United: Time to unravel the Anfield mystery
Manchester United are in a rich vein of results at the moment with four wins on the bounce. Yet, the performances have left a lot to be desired. The wins against Southampton, Fulham and even Galatasaray highlighted a few chinks in the armor and they will be put to test this weekend at Anfield, be rest assured.
So often United have taken a defensive approach at Merseyside and that mindset has cost them on many an occasion. So, early on in the season Ferguson must be tempted to go all guns blazing and not be content with a point. Although the manager would never agree that he ever comes into the game thinking a draw would do but team selections tell a story themselves. The gaffer has erred on the side of caution in the recent past at Anfield; the fans would hope the trend is bucked this weekend.
Ironically, the fixture at Anfield is right in the middle of the most grueling phase of the campaign for the Red Devils and that could yet again dictate team selections and force the manager into thinking long term. Ferguson, like always, will see the bigger picture and despite the fact that personally he might want to prioritize the Anfield duel, the Scot would know every win in the league counts as three points at best.
Therefore evidently, both teams know the significance of the game and the occasion specifically. Neither would be wanting to give an inch, no quarters will be asked, none be given. This is where the game of football draws its true essence, divides masses and polarizes opinions. Liverpool- Man United would always be the top echelon of European football. The duel will be fierce, at times brutal, but win or lose hopefully both clubs will come out with respect and dignity intact.