Anfield hasn’t been the warmest of venues for Manchester United this past season, losing on their last three visits, including a fiery encounter last March, so far the best moment of Kenny Dalglish’s second tenure as Liverpool FC manager. Expect it to be just as, shall we say, warm, this Saturday.
Still without a loss at Anfield this year, Steven Gerrard’s slow return to form is great news. I’m not sure Dalglish will start him, but he will definitely see some minutes in the midfield. On who’s expense – Adam, Lucas or someone else, that’s too soon to tell. Luis Suarez played his best game for the Reds in that 3-1 win last year, and imperfect combination, yet improving, with Andrew Carroll, will provide a tough test for Alex Ferguson’s men.
The most interesting factor will be how Wayne Rooney handles everything. The Liverpool fans will be on him, and the way he handles that pressure and this whole week and news of Bans and red cards will be crucial to United’s success. His players lost their heads seven months ago, not being aggressive enough when needed.
Alex Ferguson takes a different approach when facing Dalglish – the usual media BS don’t work against the other Scottish manager, and he doesn’t try and talk too much about referees and sway their alliance. He has enough of that every time he plays at Old Trafford.
If there’s one area on the pitch Sir Alex can be certain will be working fine, it’s the wings. Valencia, Nani, Ashley Young. I don’t know which pairing he’ll go for (probably Young and Nani), but the ability of his central midfielders to be aggressive and keep the match at a slower pace, backed up by Phil Jones, will be crucial. Liverpool go for frantic early on at Anfield, and getting caught up in the storm won’t be good for United.
Early pressure on Liverpool’s fragile central defense with frequent crosses might prove vital for United in their attempt to avoid a loss, or secure a win, at Anfield, for the first time in over 3 years. A loss here and Liverpool would be only 3 points away. It’s a terribly long season, but it’s better to keep this a two horse race.