Manchester United against Liverpool is one of the biggest games of the season, and frankly — as a football fan — I am filled with excitement. Certainly United’s start suggests that at worst a draw is the result United will claim from Anfield. However upon closer inspection, this game provides a great opportunity for Liverpool.
Firstly the form of the Uruguayan magician Luis Suarez this season is a major source of worry for whatever backline United produce. Without the rock that is Vidic the United defence has looked particularly vulnerable this season, but there is news that he may start after all. Ferdinand, at thirty two years old, has lost the speed that made him England’s finest defender since Adams in his prime. If Vidic is unable to start, there’s Johnny Evans, but to be brutally honest, he is just not up to the standard required at a top club like United. His catalogue of errors encapsulated by his ridiculous challenge on Walcott leading to Arsenal’s penalty has gone largely unnoticed. However, against Liverpool in what will surely be a cauldron of noise he is bound to be a liability. Phil Jones has been terrific thus far but, in fairness to the lad he cannot marshal the entire defence by himself. Patrice Evra has been in decline for the last year and every time he plays he seems to make costly and crucial mistakes (i.e. versus Barcelona in the Champions League final).
While the United defence is certainly circumspect, it is their midfield where the real worries lie. Michael Carrick epitomises everything that is wrong with a large proportion of midfielders today. Graced with qualities that could embrace any stage, he continues to frustrate all those around him. His first instinct is to play the ball back! Anderson on the other hand has had a decent start to the season but, he still lacks the discipline or desire to play a meaningful role in a game of importance. Fletcher unfortunately has just not gotten back to the level he showed in 2009 when he sadly missed out on a date with Barcelona in Rome. In contrast Liverpool’s midfield, in spite of the loss of Meireles, will welcome back Stevie Gerrard into the fold. In addition to the lift Gerrard will bring to his troops, Lucas, Henderson and/or Adam should provide Liverpool with a platform to give Suarez the service he needs to wreak havoc on the United backline. If Liverpool gain the upper hand from the midfield battle, then their skilful wingers should certainly be able to service their frontmen with enough ammunition to cause David De Gea sufficient problems. On the other hand if Nani and Young see enough of the ball then they will certainly worry the Liverpool backline. Some of the matchups are truly fascinating
Having already spoken of the impact Suarez should make, at the other end of the pitch is an area where United should feel confident they have enough to get the result. In Wayne Rooney they have a player who has been in scintillating form all season. While the Mexican magician Javier Hernandez will pounce on any chances on offer. The Liverpool backline of Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel, or possibly their new Uruguayan accusation Sebastian Coates, will have to be in top form to enable Liverpool to get the result they desire. A major worry must be Carragher’s pace, but if he gets by on this then Liverpool have a realistic chance of achieving three points.
The game is set up to be the best of what thus far has been a season filled with controversy and goals. The dark horse for me is Craig Bellamy. He will be a major factor one way or another in this game and the same could be said for Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck. Regardless of the result, the renewal of the Dalglish-Ferguson rivalry will capture the imagination of us all on Saturday morning. Whoever prevails will certainly have earned it by the game’s end.