Saturday, 15 October 2011

Liverpool vs Manchester United – Match Preview

The two most successful clubs in English football will go head to head at Anfield on Saturday, in one of the most anticipated fixtures of the season.

The inter-city rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United dates back to the industrial times. Liverpool was famous for its thriving port, whilst Manchester was a renowned manufacturing city. The completion of the Manchester Ship Canal meant that ships could now bypass Liverpool and go straight into Manchester, causing job losses for the merchants in Liverpool and sparking a long lasting resentment.

Both cities have grown since a decline in the industries in the 70’s and found new successes; Manchester is now recognized as a world-class city and Liverpool was awarded the European Capital of Culture in 2008. Nowadays, it is the football that keeps the fierce rivalry alive, in what is referred to as the North West Derby, or ‘the most famous fixture in English football’, according to Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs.

The rivalry between the two clubs has intensified recently as United overtook Liverpool’s record of 18 league titles when they won the Premier League last season, making it 19 for the Red Devils. However, Liverpool still owns the bragging rights for the most successful English team in Europe, with five European Cups to United’s three. I’m sure there will be a few number 19’s in the away section at Anfield on Saturday, but having lost their last three visits to the fortress, United will be cautious in their approach.

Kenny Dalglish has seen his team bounce back from two successive defeats in a row to three wins on the trot in all competitions, however, the Red’s form is no match for the league leaders. Alex Ferguson’s men remain unbeaten and their only slip up in the league has been an away draw to Stoke. It was United’s away form that let them down in the league last season and a trip on the M62 to Liverpool could be their first real away test this season.

The home side have little injury concerns as they prepare for Saturday’s fixture. Daniel Agger, Martin Kelly and Glen Johnson all face a late battle to be fit, however, Steven Gerrard looks set to start in what will be his first game back since playing in Liverpool’s 3-1 over United in March last season. Gerrard provides his team with another dimension of football and an added belief. The skipper has enjoyed numerous successes against United over the years and will be chomping at the bit for a start and to make a solid impact once again. Luis Suarez is almost certain to start following his recent form, however the Uruguayan flew back from South America midweek, so Dalglish will have to assess his striker’s mental fitness for the encounter.

The visitors still have a few injury problems in defence, however Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans should be available for Saturday. Another bonus for Ferguson is that his steely Serbian defender, Nemanja Vidic, could also be in contention for a start, having performed in international duty on Tuesday. Vidic, however, has been sent off in two of his last three visits to Anfield. Chris Smalling is unlikely to make his return to first team action, whilst David De Gea is likely to take the place of Anders Lindegaard in goal. Following his red card due to his display of petulance when playing for England, United’s token scouser Wayne Rooney, will be looking to get one over on his rivals and also get his name in the papers for the rights reasons this week.

Liverpool have shown a greater level of desire in this fixture in recent years and Dalglish will have his men fired up and raring to go from the off and no doubt will be told to test the ability of De Gea in between the United sticks. With their new attacking prowess in Saurez, Carroll, Bellamy and Downing, it’ll certainly give the visitor’s defence something to think about. Both teams have brought in new faces over the transfer window and they have both undoubtedly become stronger as a result. The bragging rights are up for grabs once again, in what will be a fiercely contested game.

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