Brendan Rodgers and his resurgent Liverpool team travel to the wrong end of the East Lancashire Road on Sunday for what will be one hell of an encounter with the old enemy Manchester United. Can David Moyes’ men put a halt to Rodgers’ effervescent eleven, or will the Theatre of Dreams become a nightmare on Sir Matt Busby Way for the home side come 3.15 on the day?
It’s certainly shaping up to be one of the games of the season so far. Not just because Liverpool have simply out performed United in every way so far this season, but also due to the history between the two clubs. Your average Manyoo fan must be spitting nails at the progress shown by LFC this term. From the point of view of a Liverpool supporter, I have to revel in the current achievements, or lack of, for both teams.
The Merseysiders have gatecrashed the top-of-the-table party in spectacular style and along the way gained an army of admirers. Since the turn of the year they’ve remained unbeaten in nine Premiership games firing 29 goals past their opponents. In the process recording scorelines of 4-0, 5-1 and 0-3 against Everton, Arsenal and Southampton respectively. Fully deserving of the plaudits born from these performances. An average of 3.2 goals per game means you have to fancy the Reds for this one. Sir Alex Ferguson’s noisy neighbours are now sounding an emphatic warning to all who stand before them.
Allied to that, there is clearly a new-found steel to Rodgers’ men and a determination that is making them a very difficult team to turn over. Liverpool have not achieved their current level by any serendipitous means either. The planning, the purpose and the detail of Rodgers is plain to see and translating into firm results on the pitch. The work he’s done in improving Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Jon Flanagan and Jordan Henderson among others, has been nothing short of astonishing.
On the other hand, their hosts have been nothing short of poor. And that’s putting it mildly. Mathematically, United still have everything to play for. Realistically they’re merely playing for pride. Since the turn of the year, they have managed only four wins in the nine games and mustered just 14 goals. Less than half the tally of Sunday’s visitors and translating into an average of just 1.2 goals per game. Their biggest win being 0-3 against West Bromwich Albion in their last outing. The team have seemingly struggled to adapt to Moyes’ requirements since he took over and one could argue his ousting of Sir Alex’s successful back room staff may not have been his best move. With Robin Van Persie only netting 11 times this season and £37.1m record signing Juan Mata not exactly setting the world alight, the situation doesn’t look like improving anytime soon.
There are however two positives for United. Firstly, Marouane Fellaini who has played in the last two matches and he now looks as if he’s returning to the form that led Moyes to fork out £27.5m for him. It’s no coincidence that United have looked stronger in, and won, these last two league matches with him in the side. Secondly, their defensive record is superior to Liverpool’s which, let’s be honest, isn’t that much to write home about. Conceding only nine goals since the turn of the year in as many matches against the visitors who’s leaky back line shows 12 in the ‘A’ for Against column. A goal a game for Manyoo versus 1.3 for LFC.
This is shaping up to be a feisty encounter between these two giants and I can’t wait until the ref blows for kick-off on Sunday at 1.30. The current situation for both teams could not be anymore opposite to how things have been in recent times. Should Liverpool come out on top, I think it’ll give them the psychological edge over United, having been in their shadow for the best part of the last 25 years. Could this be the time for a change in the tide for the next 25 years? Who knows, but there’s no time like the present to start and what better venue than in your biggest rival’s back yard.
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