Today brings about one of the games you look for first when the fixtures are announced at the beginning of the season. Liverpool at home. Whilst the derby attracts more attention these days, since City’s new found wealth, this is the game that matters most to the fans. The players who are local or who have been at the club long enough share these sentiments. Paul Scholes spoke about this earlier in the week, saying “Liverpool historically are our biggest rivals, they’re always the biggest games and the best atmospheres.”
Ferguson has called for us to forget the Suarez business and we could have been further along this road had Suarez not refused to shake Evra’s hand ahead of this fixture last season. Not only had he racially abused him, he then shuns the handshake, which Evra had been big enough to initiate, much to the embarrassment of Liverpool. Having buried their heads in the sand and behaved disgracefully in response to their player being found guilty of racial abuse (wearing a t-shirt in his honour?? Really??), this was a turning point for them, with them finally apologising for Suarez’s actions. Their fans haven’t helped the situation, booing Evra whenever they’ve played against him since, again signalling how out of touch they have been with this issue. Steven Gerrard, who is usually singled out for the worst abuse from our fans, will be grateful that Suarez has made such a show of himself.
Form means little going in to these games, so being 21 points ahead of them, with a gulf in quality between our two squads, won’t define this game necessarily. Thankfully, Gerrard is the only player in their starting team who really gets the rivalry between the two teams, but their players will be up for it because we’re Manchester United and we’re top of the table. They’ve been dealt some fairly embarrassing results in the past month against Aston Villa and Stoke, but you never know what will happen in games like this.
We’ve been giving away sloppy goals left, right and centre this season, and for as much as you hate Suarez, it’s hard to ignore his quality. Sir Alex Ferguson alluded to talk that Suarez would play on the right for Liverpool (meaning he would be marked by Evra) which is something the boss would welcome. Either Evra has the game of his life or he gets sent off for getting done by the little twat and lashing out. Still, as Ferguson said, we should be grateful for keeping him as far away from goal as possible.
Nani and Anderson are back in contention after returning from their injuries but it is unlikely they will be thrown straight back in to the starting line-up. They’re good options to have from the bench though and with Cleverley/Carrick likely to start, Ando might be brought on for the last ten or fifteen minutes if we need a bit for ‘umph’. Nani, who was our best player when we won that record breaking 19th title to overtake Liverpool, had a poor season before his injury. His last game for us was in the first week of November but hopefully the time out has given him chance to get his shit together. He’s a quality player though and scored a cracking goal against Liverpool a few years ago. Despite Ferguson’s claims to the contrary, I hope any games he gets aren’t seen as an opportunity to put him in the shop window. I really hope the Nani episode has a happy ending, but Wilf Zaha lined up, it looks as though he may be moving on soon, even if that’s in the summer.
With Giggs’ improved form on the left wing, after being pretty woeful every time he’s played in the centre of the park, you wonder if he will be brought in for this one. It wouldn’t surprised me if he was “saved” for West Ham though. Valencia needs a kick up the backside though and we need Young to put in the kind of performance he started to show he was capable of a few weeks ago. Whilst most choices in the starting XI seem fairly obvious, it will be interesting to see what he goes with up front. Play Kagawa for his creativity behind Van Persie? Start our top two goalscorers for the hope of putting away most chances? Play Van Persie alongside Welbeck for his workrate and understanding of the occasion? It’s a tough decision.
We have the bragging rights over Liverpool, regardless of the result on Sunday. We have the 19 titles titles and we have the spot at the top of the league, but this game isn’t just about getting one over on Liverpool, but keeping ourselves in a good position to make it 20. City could have a tough game on their hands later that afternoon at the Emirates and it would be great to pile the pressure on them with a 10 point lead before they kick off. But for now, let’s just focus on the job in hand, and batter these bastards.
Free £20 bet wins you…
Van Persie to score first = £90
Gerrard to score any time = £95
United to win 3-1 = £250
Evans to score any time = £270
Liverpool winning at half time, United winning at full time = £460