Liverpool v/s Manchester United,
Barclays Premier League
Referee – Mark Halsey
‘Tragedy brings People Together’ is an old proverb. The Hillsborough tragedy is one that shook the world in 1989. It has brought a lot of enemies together. Sensitivity is the need of the hour this weekend. Liverpool fans were cleared of any misdoings in the events leading to the disaster. This is a victory for those who have been fighting for a long time. United fans need to play their part and be sensitive of the issue as it is an emotional affair for the Liverpool faithful and paying respects will go a long way in improving the relationship between the fans of both the clubs. Sir Alex Ferguson has requested the United to behave at Anfield and pay homage to all those who lost their lives in 1989. He has personally asked the fans not to misbehave and show compassion towards the opposite fans. This match is also very significant with respect to the Suarez-Evra racial fiasco that resulted in a 8 match suspension for the Uruguayan striker. Since then there has been bad blood between the two with Suarez refusing to shake hands with Evra in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford. Everyone associated has been requested to forget the past and join hands to commemorate the lives lost in the Hillsborough disaster.
It is an emotional weekend for Liverpool and its fans. It was a massive victory in the Hillsborough disaster for the fans. Brendan Rodgers has been critical of the minority of fans mocking the occasion. Irrespective of the magnitude of the occasion Rodgers will be reminded of the fact that his team are still without a win in the league. Two draws and two losses constitute the four matches thus far in the league. They have been a hot and cold phenomenon in the league. They played brilliantly against Manchester City but were completely anonymous against the Gunners. Rodgers will be hoping that his side delivers the goods against United and he notches up his first league win on an emotional weekend. Gerrard and Suarez seem to the centre around which Rodgers seems to revolve his side around. Sterling has made leaps and bounces this term and has justified his promotion to the first team. The highly rated youngster has been a big plus for the manager. Downing’s inability to provide or score goals added to Borini’s indecisiveness in front of goal has added to the problem for Brendan Rodgers. The defense has a familiar look to it. Reina has been a household figure in the side alongside Carragher and Skrtel. Johnson, who is right footed slots in with ease at right back while Kelly who also came from the academy plays in the right back role. Any match against their arch rivals is important and this one will be no different. The Reds will be looking to kick start their season against United.
Manchester United had a tough outing against the Turkish champions in midweek. Carrick opened the scoring in the 7th minute and for a quarter of an hour it looked like plain sailing for the club. Things turned out pretty differently and in the end United just about held out for the narrowest of wins. The midfield problem is one that still haunts Ferguson. He hasn’t signed any combative midfielder again this season and teams are dominating United in the middle of the park far too easily. The return of Darren Fletcher may add impetus to the rather insipid midfield. Persie looked out of sorts against Galatasaray but he will raring to go against Liverpool. Kagawa whose transition from Germany to England has been smooth will look to add goals to his performances. Kagawa has a brilliant footballing brain has been by far United’s best player this season. The problem lies in midfield where teams are dominating United and passing around at will. The combination of Cleverly and Anderson worked pretty well but the duo are highly inconsistent. Scholes who still seems to spread around the ball at will isn’t getting any younger and Carrick has his moments. United will need to watch out for Gerrard and Shelvey, both of whom look to run circles around the opposition box. Sahin who is a defensive midfielder by trade will look to shield the defense against the United front men. Nani and Valencia will be expected to start in a 4-4-1-1 formation which has been employed since the arrival of Kagawa and Persie. Vidic has been in top form this season and has shown glimpses of the no-nonsense defender United missed last season. Evra looks to set to replace Buttner at left back while Rafael da Silva will continue at right back. De Gea or Lindegaard, whoever gets the nod will be have to be on top form for this crunch math .
Manchester United – With Wayne Rooney still out of the team ,The return of Fletcher is a big boost for United as the midfield has been dominated far too many times this season. It may still take time for him to get back to his pre-injury form but it is a big bonus for Manchester United. Except the long term injuries to Smalling and Jones and a couple of niggling injuries, United have a clean bill of health. Cleverly may replace Scholes who has already played 2 games in the week and a third could be one too many. Carrick would be the obvious partner of Cleverly with Kagawa and Persie leading the attack. The indifferent performance of Nani against Galatasaray is a concern, one which Ferguson will be keen to address given Young is still on the sidelines. Valencia would complete the midfield quartet even though he did not have the best of games on Wednesday. The goalkeeping situation is a mystery to everyone except the United manager. De Gea kept his concentration against Galatasaray and was up to the task when called in action. Lindegaard did not do his chances any harm against Wigan. Ferdinand, rested in midweek may return to partner the club captain Vidic in the centre of defense. Buttner who was excellent against Wigan will most certainly lose his to Evra as Anfield can be an intimidating place. Rafael is the only available right back that Ferguson has at his disposal making him an automatic starter.
Liverpool – Like United, Liverpool too had a midweek game in Europe. Brendan Rodgers has his sight set on the league position rather than performance in Europe. This meant that a second string side was put on in Europe. The first string side got a break and are relatively fresher than the United side which had a tough match in Europe. The Liverpool manager prefers a 4-3-3 formation with fluidity among the top 3. Suarez, Sterling and Borini are the preferred trio up front. Sterling who has raised eyebrows with his performances this season is a pacy young winger with lots of tricks up his sleeves. Promoted from the reserves Sterling has shown glimpses of brilliance this season. Suarez was one of the bright light last season in a disappointing season for Liverpool. The attack revolves around and Gerrard, whose late surges in the box are always a threat. Sahin, on-loan from Real Madrid has failed to settle thus far but his talent is undoubted and Rodgers will be looking to Sahin to put in a brilliant shift. Jonjo Shelvey, who was among the rare first teamers to play in midweek is also a threat to the opposing goal. His two goals salvaged the situation for Liverpool and he will be hoping to repeat the same against United. Pepe Reina is the undisputed No.1 keeper for the Merseyside club. Carragher and Skrtel seem to the preferred central defensive partnership with the full back slot filled by Kelly and Johnson.
Liverpool – Raheem Sterling – Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard are the best players Liverpool but they have not been at their best. Sterling, still only 17 years old has definitely caught the eye with his raw pace and ingenuity. His inexperience is his biggest asset currently. He runs at defenders directly and will cause United defenders a lot of trouble.
Manchester United – Shinji Kagawa – He is only a month old in the Premier League but he has already made a huge impression and earned rave reviews. He offers a new dimension to the United side. He still has to add goals to his repertoire but given time that will come. Liverpool will be need to be aware of the threat Kagawa poses as the creative force for Manchester United