It’s got to be the best game of the season, hasn’t it? The hatred felt for this club is always there but on match day it’s just something else. We’ve won 5 of our last 6 against them at Old Trafford so have been spoilt by this fixture.
The one result missing from that six is a game which is up there with our most painful of recent times, even though those feelings subsided by May when we beat them to the title and condemned them to a 19th year without their ‘bread and butter’.
Still, it’s the games at home that we expect a win. That is the expectation. Going to Anfield is different but at Old Trafford we should be beating them. A draw feels like defeat, particularly when you have to hear their lot celebrating in the corner. I can’t bear it.
United have put in some decent displays so far this season in the 90 minutes but sadly seem to go to pot when it reaches injury time. There’s concern that our players could develop a bit of a complex about this and even if they are fully prepared defensively, become shaky because they’re so nervous about conceding again. You’d like to think they are mentally better prepared than that though.
We’ve scored 11 goals in 4 games, which is pretty good going, particularly when you consider that Wayne Rooney has just one of them, a penalty. Liverpool, in contrast, have scored just 2 goals in 4 games, with their other players not having enough to compensate for Fernando Torres’ poor form. Lots of the tabloids have billed this as Rooney vs Torres, but I’d argue this will be more about our other players. It’s the likes of Nani, Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Scholes we will be relying on today. Looking at the Liverpool squad, you wonder who they can turn to. Not that it has any impact on days like today, because form and quality go out of the window, but this is the poorest Liverpool squad we’ve seen for probably ten years. Whilst Torres and Steven Gerrard are quality players, they don’t have anyone else who would get near our starting XI. That should serve more as a consolation for the season, given that Liverpool will really struggle to get themselves a Champions League spot again this season, but on the day, it matters little. The likes of Dossena and N’Gog have got on the scoresheet against us in recent years, so their quality isn’t an issue on big days like this.
It will be interesting to see who Sir Alex Ferguson goes with in defence. Wes Brown and Rio Fedinand both got back in the team for Rangers, which gives us the possibility of Wes at right back and Rio alongside captain Vidic. Evra and Park will probably start on the left, with Ji giving the extra effort to counter any possible threat down that wing from Glen Johnson. Nani will start on the right and should go from strength to strength this season, sadly, at the price of Valencia, down his favoured wing.
In the centre of midfield we should expect Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes. The two have had contrasting seasons so far, with Scholesy bossing every midfield and Fletch sadly proving fairly ineffective, for all his effort. Liverpool will probably go with five across the middle today so we really need them both to be on form, with Fletch sweeping up to allow Scholes to play the ball all over the park.
Then in braver fashion than last season in our big games, we’ll be playing two strikers, with Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney set to start. The tide has been turning on Dimi, thanks to the 3 goals and 1 assist he’s got to his name in 4 games this season, but scoring against the dippers would seal the deal. Honestly, I don’t really care how we score, as long as we do. It could come off Wes Brown’s arse for all I care but I really would love to see Berb score today.
Games like this at the start of the season won’t define your season which is why it’s nice to play them early on. Whilst three points goes down well in our title hunt, we can enjoy the game today for the sake of enjoying it, for the sake of getting one over on our rivals, and like every season, I’m totally desperate for a win.
Today has the added interest for me to see how well the Old Shirts Day goes down, with RoM urging fans to dig out their old shirts in a bid to raise awareness to the protest against the Glazers. I’ll be wearing the blue one from the early 90s, with the enlarged badge in the background, as modelled by Mark Hughes above. Looking at myself in the mirror this morning, I couldn’t help but notice this shirt isn’t quite as trendy as I thought it was back in the day, but should be good for a laugh anyway.
So, as the rain pours down in Manchester today, let’s hope someone is smiling down on us and helps us to victory today. Beating the scousers sets you up for the next few weeks and after ruining the weekend just gone with the result against Everton, the lads owe it to us today.
COME on United!