Yes, it’s me again. And I’m delighted to say that after some poor efforts in previous articles, I don’t need to apologise for the lack of a song in the title of my article. Jess Glynne and Clean Bandit’s 2014 hit is the theme for this piece, because try as I might, I can’t think of anywhere in the world I’d rather be than Anfield on Monday.
The visit of Manchester United to L4 is always a unique day filled with nerves and expectation from the moment any Reds fan opens their eyes for the first time that morning. It’s a day where even the most uninterested football fan in the city knows that a big 24 hours is on the horizon; because for one day in our incredible city, there’s just something in the air.
So if it’s always such a big day, why is this one any different to the countless other Liverpool/United matches that have gone before, I hear you ask?
Because this is when we’re going to find out just how good we are. Historically, our record against United in the league isn’t great. They’ve won the last four in the league against us, both times at Anfield by the odd goal. We’ve seen our team defeat Arsenal, Chelsea and Swansea already this season, three teams we have mixed (and that’s being generous) records against. This fixture is the first of three against teams that have had holds on us for too long: Man United, West Brom and Crystal Palace. The momentum a win against United would give us going into the other two would be massive. And let’s not forget that Manchester United are now managed by Jose Mourinho – a manager who loves only one thing more than playing us, and that’s beating us. Mourinho’s Chelsea always did well against us, and he knows how to set a team up to thwart us. He has proved on numerous occasion that he is capable of selecting a side with the discipline, focus and patience required to frustrate our attacking talent. With the arguable exception of Burnley, we haven’t really seen a team sit deep and try to nullify our attack this season. It’s a type of footballing task we haven’t yet had the chance to prove ourselves capable of overcoming this season, and if we were to do it then it would give even more substance and evidence to the idea that we are finally overcoming the problems that have been haunting us for so long. The value and achievement of a win against a Jose Mourinho side just can’t be underestimated. Win this, and we are title contenders. No one can deny that.
But is it really going to happen? Well, I have a frankly hideous record of predicting Liverpool results lately (just check my pinned tweet) but I am pretty confident. The atmosphere at Anfield on Monday should be unbelievable – night games always generate more noise and with a sixteen day wait for it, everyone should be in fine voice. The crowd need to rise up to the importance of the occasion and I’m sure we won’t be let down – we’ve already shown once this year that we are capable of creating an atmosphere too hostile for United to handle. My message to anyone lucky enough to be at the game is this: do it again. Shock them. Scare them. Welcome the coach. Get in the ground early. Be a I part of the best You’ll Never Walk Alone we’ve ever done. Don’t stop singing for a second. Applaud everything we do and jeer everything they do. They will crumble. You have as much of a part to play as the lads on the pitch. Show the world why we’re the best fans in the land.
I often get told that I’m one of the most pessimistic fans around (I prefer realistic) but even I am confident for this one. That’s how good this team is and how good I feel about Liverpool right now. We’re undoubtedly in better form that United right now. The Mourinho factor is a big one, he’s a world class manager but so is Jurgen Klopp so I’m not too worried about that. Actually, I’d be more worried if they were still managed by Louis Van Gaal. Ultimately his time at United will probably be viewed as a failure, but let’s not forget that he was responsible for the likes of Martial, Rashford, Lingard, Fosu-Mensah, Herrera, Blind and Shaw all coming into the first team. Also, remember how good his record was in the big games. He had 4 league wins out of 4 against us, so at least that record won’t be continuing. Our attacking players are in fine form lately – Mane, Firmino and Coutinho will all be looking to keep their good runs up. Compare that with United though, and you’ve got Rooney and Martial, both of whom are in and out of the team, and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic has died down a little after a strong start. Whilst this may well be the most jinxy thing I could ever say, I don’t think Rashford will do well in the game – we saw in March how United’s young players froze under the raucous atmosphere. Paul Pogba has made a quiet start to life back at Old Trafford and I really hope he doesn’t play well, chiefly because I have no interest in seeing his absolutely garbage new haircut. This fixture has seen an unusually high number of penalties in its recent acts. There have been four awarded in the last five games – one for us and three for United – with only one being missed (Rooney, Anfield, March 2015). Given James Milner’s impeccable recent record from twelve yards, let’s hope for another one on Monday! We’ve got to keep our fingers crossed that Lallana, Lovren, Wijnaldum and Clyne recover from their injuries in time for Monday, because we can’t afford to be missing key players for the biggest game of the season. Admittedly though it could provide opportunities for the likes of Can, Moreno, Origi and Sturridge. One of Klopp’s biggest decisions to make will be whether to stick with Loris Karius, or re-install Simon Mignolet to the first team.
The win against them at Anfield in the Europa League seven months ago felt like the rebirth of Liverpool as we know and love it; the immovable force of players, management and fans coming together as one, who on any given European night, could give any team in the world a game. A win in this would be off the scale big. It would confirm our confidence, it would make us into real title contenders and give us an incredible boost of momentum going into a run of fixtures taking us up until Christmas where we should be looking to get a serious amount of points. The magnitude of this game is ridiculous. And we don’t tend to disappoint in big nights at home. So I’m backing us to win this game.
Anfield. Monday night. There’s no place I’d rather be.
P.S – Anyone got a spare ticket?!