David Moyes takes Manchester United to Anfield for his first game in charge of this tremendous derby. THT engaged in a bit of pre match banter.

Squaring Up at Anfield

This is the biggest rivalry in British football. Liverpool and Manchester United are the two most successful British clubs in the world. This rivalry transcends local boundaries and divides fans like few others. Resident “Liverpudlian” Anurag Upadhyaya (AU) and Resident “Red Devil” Dushyant Sinha (DS) thrash it out before the game.

Anurag kicked things off for his home team:

AU: Despite being linked with numerous players, United are yet to make a signing of any significance this summer. Do you think United have started on the back foot in the title race, especially considering how teams around them have strengthened in this transfer window?

DS: While I do agree that this particular transfer window has been a bit of a disappointment for United and while I am concerned that the likes of Chelsea, City and Spurs have added to their squads this summer, I do think United still have the resilience to retain the Premier League. I admit the rest of the teams have closed the gap on us in terms of quality players, but I’d like to point out that this is a title winning squad that knows how to do the job. Moyes might not have added any players but if he can keep the squad ticking we can carry over from where we left off last year. Let me remind you that this is a squad that has the top scorer in the league, one of the most successful passers in the league and one of the most promising goalkeepers in the world. I think the squad has great balance but I do agree that we need to strengthen in the window. With one day to go, I am really hoping we sign someone in midfield to partner Carrick. De Rossi, Herrera or Fellaini might join up and it’ll be a different story if that happens. Fingers crossed.

AU: It seems like Wayne Rooney will extend his stay at the club despite all the drama. So have the fans already forgiven him or is there a divided opinion?

DS: Yes it does look like Rooney will stay. As a United fan, I’m delighted. As a Rooney fan, I’m extremely disappointed at the way he has conducted himself. From being one if the icons of this United team, he has fallen way down the pecking order for me with his tantrums. He threw a similar fit in 2010 for exactly the opposite reasons. At that time he lamented the fact that he was the only star performer in the team and that the club lacked ambition. Now that he has lost out to Robin van Persie in the United starting line-up, instead of stepping up his game, he is lamenting the fact that he has been replaced. I have lost a lot of respect that I had for Rooney since then. Nevertheless, Rooney looks likely to stay and if Moyes can motivate him to work for the team, I think United would see the best of Rooney again. If the performances come, fans who are divided right now, including myself, will forgive his tantrum like a bad dream.

AU: Sir Alex urged the fans to support David Moyes like they have supported him, but do you think the United fans, who have experienced such success under the former manager, will remain patient with David Moyes if the first season ends in disappointment?

DS: I agree with that. If United finish outside the top two, fans will start questioning the decision to hire a manager who has never won a major trophy over more experienced candidates. As it is, I believe there is undue pressure on Moyes. Fans and the press are being unfair to him in comparison with Sir Alex. Think of it this way – if Sir Alex had signed Fellaini last season it would’ve been treated as a coup. Now that Moyes has talked openly about signing the likes of Fabregas, even if he gets Fellaini to Old Trafford it would be seen as a disappointment. The fans are basically berating a man who for the first time in years has tried to fix the midfield problem. I think the fans should support Moyes for at least two full seasons, but I doubt this will happen should United slip out of the top two this season.

AU: Do you think David Moyes’ lack of experience of managing in the Champions League could hurt United’s ambition in Europe this season?

DS: I don’t think so. I believe a squad as good as United’s doesn’t suddenly lose the ability. With players like Ryan Giggs and familiar faces like Phil Neville around in the management, the players will not lose the connect with the staff. The fact that United faltered badly in the Champions League two seasons ago even under Sir Alex proves that even the best get it wrong. Moyes might be an instant hit in the mould of Jose Mourinho. He just hasn’t had a chance yet.

AU: Finally – there was a huge difference between United and Liverpool last season in the league table, but considering Liverpool’s activity in the transfer market, do you think the gap will be significantly reduced this time around?

DS: I believe Liverpool would improve definitely after their spending. And they’ve gone as low as one can imagine. The only way is up now. The gap will be reduced but not significantly at all. I do not see Liverpool gaining more than a spot and United losing more than one spot even in the most Liverpool-optimistic scenario. I like the players Brendan Rodgers has brought to Anfield in the past but there is too much quality at Old Trafford to bridge the gap between these two clubs. The quality has definitely improved at Liverpool. With players like Coutinho and Sturridge coming in last season, I think Liverpool have banished the memories of disastrous transfers like Andy Carroll, Maxi Rodriguez and Fernando Morientes. So squad wise the gap will definitely be closed to an extent. However, if United get in one or two exciting deadline-day deals I think they’ll be the league winners this year. Liverpool will not even make Champions League football qualification. So, in all it’s going to be same old same old (well, recent old) in the league as far as the league table gap between United and Liverpool is concerned.

Dushyant picked it up in the second half:

DS: Liverpool haven’t beaten United at Anfield in the Premier League for two seasons. Do you think you’ll be third time lucky?

AU: If we continue to enjoy the bit of luck we have had in the last fortnight, with the wins over Stroke and Aston Villa, we might actually see Liverpool edging out Man United towards the end! But in all fairness, we have some concerns going into the match with regards to our defense, which would be vulnerable in the absense of Toure. However, I also feel that Moyes would be under pressure to ‘not lose’ his first match at Anfield as the United boss. After all he has does not hold a good record against Liverpool specially at Anfield, while managing Everton. Last time Liverpool lost to Moyes’s Everton was three years back!

DS: Liverpool have had a shaky start to the season. Two 1-0s and you shot yourselves in the foot by allowing the Capital One Cup game against Notts County to go to extra time. The defence will now have a torrid time against Van Persie since Kolo Toure is also out thanks to the extra time strain against Notts County. Surely RvP needs just one chance you know.

AU: Yes, one chance is all van Persie needs and Liverpool would certainly miss Toure. But we have the knack of coming strong against our rival teams, and it is as much in our DNA as United have it in them to clinch the 1-0, 2-1 results through out the season, when they aren’t playing as well. Although they would start as favourites, it would be anything but easy for United to get a result at Anfield. We might have some tired legs due to the 120 mins run out on Tuesday, but we learnt a couple of lessons with respect to defending which would certainly help the players and the manager close the loose ends while facing the rivals.

DS: Luis Suarez is still unavailable for the game. Do you think Liverpool should have bought a non biting, regular striker in the transfer window who has more chances of being available for games.

AU: To put it on record, Suarez is comparable to van Persie or Rooney when it comes to talent and worth to the team. As far as his antics are concerned, it was a bit disappointing for the fans to see him going out into the press with the case, but that’s history. We knew he, quite deservedly, wanted to play in the Champions League but hey, you can’t really ridicule him, for making an attempt to move to another club, when you have someone like Wayne Rooney in your ranks, who has time and again put United on the predicament – wanting to move to City and Chelsea at different times. Rooney did not believe Manchester United were ‘ambitious’ enough, the last time his move was suppressed! That was when you were the defending Champions, if I am not mistaken!

DS: Jamie Carragher and Brendan Rodgers have expressed anger at Suarez’s antics. Do you think Liverpool have fallen so far behind their rivals that they are forced to tolerate the childish petulance of a Uruguayan? This is after all a club steeped in strong British tradition. Do you think they should conduct themselves with a little more dignity than defending on field biting and racism?

AU: One should ask Moyes, about maintaining dignity, when he openly undermined Wayne Rooney as a second fiddle player! Contrastingly, Rodger’s was anything but undignified in his conduct. He was considerate towards Suarez’s wish for playing in the Champions League, until he went to the press, after which John Henry came out to settle the dispute. Well, yes; it was disappointing to say the least, as I had conceded previously. But Suarez has a contract with Liverpool, and the terms don’t allow him to dictate the club. The club are rightful to make a decision on what suits them and as it turned out, the owner and the manager were clear with not allowing him to go to another club at this point. On a related note, it was pleasantly surprising to see Chelsea coming out with a press note, to rebuff the media reports (that were clearly fed from the United hierarchy), about swapping Rooney with Mata and David Luiz. Perhaps, not the best way of conducting business for Manchester United, a club steeped in strong British tradition!

DS: Why are you mocking the 1958 Munich disaster just before the big game on Sunday. Surely you’re better than this. Or are you?

AU: I am sure there is nothing much to read into that, after the public apology from Liverpool! The club even ordered an internal investigation about the incident.

With hours to go before kick off, Dushyant, wearing a van Nistelrooy shirt and Anurag, a Fowler shirt, head off to the sports bar for a pre-match beer.