MANCHESTER UNITED v/s LIVERPOOL
BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
VENUE – Old Trafford (Capacity – 75,811)
KO – 1330 GMT
Referee – Howard Webb
Pride, Passion and Desire. The three things that are in abundance when Manchester United face Liverpool. No matter the competition or the prize on offer, the stakes are always much higher. Manchester United and Liverpool are the most successful clubs in the English game but when they face off everything related to the past goes out of the window. Be it the 19 league titles of United or the 5 Champions League titles of Liverpool, nothing matters. The will to win against the fiercest rival overcomes every emotion. The form book is torn and burnt. The form table hardly matters. Both set of players are pumped up and motivated for this fixture. Never are the teams short of adrenalin in these matches. Just winning is not enough, dominating the opposition also counts. Sir Alex Ferguson, in the last 25 years at Manchester United has seen managers come and go at Liverpool but his motivation to beat Liverpool has never been affected. Brendan Rodgers is the latest one to face Ferguson and his team. There is no shortage of drama when these two side meet and the latest installment of this fixture is guaranteed to be no different. Another added spice to this fixture is the appointment of Howard Webb as the official. Ryan Babel, infamously posted a morphed shirt of Webb in a United shirt after the official awarded a soft penalty to Manchester United. He is one of the best officials in the world but he will have to be at his very best to be in complete control of this match.
Sir Alex Ferguson and his team sit on the top of the table with a 7 point lead over Manchester City and things are getting better all around the park. A couple of clean sheets have helped stable the ship a little bit. The return of Nemanja Vidic has brought a little sternness to the back four. With the festive season schedule done and dusted with the United manager will be looking for an extended run of victories in the new year. Defeating Liverpool would be perfect. Matches against Liverpool are the first things that fans look to when the fixtures are announced. Sir Alex Ferguson has a special relationship with Liverpool and their 18 league titles. His team overtook them in the overall league title haul and has his eyes set on league title number 20. As much as their defensive frailties are troubling them, the attack led by Robin van Persie has bailed them on many occasions. With Rooney poised to return next week, United look in top condition for the title run in. They are usually at their most efficient in the second half of the season which is not good news for their rivals.
For Brendan Rodgers, there is more than just 3 points at stake. When he took over at Liverpool in the summer expectations were high among the fans. Things have certainly not panned out that for the former Swansea manager. He has failed to be accepted as the Liverpool manager and is yet to make any serious impression on the owners. This is the reason winning this match is much more important for him. A win against the old foes may yet warm up the fans towards their manager. Liverpool, currently lie in 8th position which is a decent position but not exactly where the fans would want to be. Despite a average season there has been some positives for the team. Raheem Sterling, for example has been a revelation. The young winger tormented Evra in the reverse fixture earlier this season. He will be one of the key factors in the match. The Suarez-Evra racism controversy will not be easily forgotten and with the home support in favor of Evra, the Uruguayan will have to be as his very best both mentally and physically. Rodgers will keen to win over the fans with a victory at Old Trafford and build on from there.
Manchester United – As this is a home game, Sir Alex Ferguson will be keen on putting up an attacking line up. Robin van Persie is a definite starter in such a big game. The Dutchman has been in brilliant form and leads the goal scoring charts in the league. The absence of Wayne Rooney through injury means Kagawa will start on the top of a possible diamond. The Japanese might start just behind the main striker. Ferguson’s best central midfield partnership seems to Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverly. The Scot will be looking to put up that partnership with the likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs on the bench. Valencia and Young seem to have a terrible season but with Nani still out injured the duo are in line to start the match. The defense seems to finally have a familiar look to it. David de Gea is having an extended run in goal and he is steadily improving. Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra are the obvious choices at right back and left back respectively. In the centre of defense it is a bit of a conundrum for the manager. Evans has performed brilliantly this season while Vidic has been solid since his return. Rio Ferdinand has been a consistent figure in the side and he will be looking to partner Vidic for the Liverpool game despite Evans’s good performances.
Liverpool – Even when Rodgers was at Swansea he liked to play an attacking formation. He has not changed anything at Liverpool. The manager likes to play a 4-4-1-1 formation with top scorer Luiz Suarez leading the attack. Captain, Steven Gerrard gives support to the striker in the hole just behind the striker. The two frontmen have formed a good partnership and understand really each other well. In the middle of the park, former Swansea man Joe Allen usually partners Jonjo Shelvey. Nuri Sahin, since his arrival from Madrid on-loan has been unable to make an impression. If given a start he will be eager to set the record straight. Sterling and Downing are the manager’s preferred men on the wings. Glen Johnson who is traditionally a right back has deputized many times at left back. With Jose Enrique facing a late fitness test Johnson may switch to the left side while Jamie Carragher takes his place at right back. Skrtel and Agger will start in the centre of defense. Pepe Reina has been the undisputed No. 1 at Anfield for a long time and he will start in goal against Manchester United.
Manchester United – Robin van Persie– The Dutchman has had a successful season with his new club and has become an important player for the team. He already has 20 goals for his team and is the highest scorer in the league. He has added a new dimension to the Manchester United and is completely justifying his price tag. He has a deadly left foot and is one of the most technically gifted players in the world. He is a match winner and the Liverpool team will need to keep a check on the former Arsenal striker. He loves playing against Liverpool. Out of the last 6 games against them Persie has 5 goals.
Liverpool – Luiz Suarez– The controversial Uruguayan striker may not be very popular among his peers and the fans but he possesses talent in abundance. He is a key figure for the Reds. He is full of little tricks which bamboozles defenders. His goal tally this season suggests he has an eye for goal. A couple of season he slipped past three defenders and set up a teammate to score against Manchester United. He is deadly on his day and can be devastating if given the slightest of chances.
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