Liverpool v Manchester United – preview
Two weeks after beating Everton in the Merseyside derby at Goodison the Reds (that’s the ‘Reds’ of Liverpool, not the ‘Red Devils’ of Stretford) today take on Manchester United at Anfield.
Kenny Dalglish told his press conference audience that “everyone” was fit for the match but with some of the squad away on international duty since that derby win, some only returning as late as Thursday morning, there hasn’t been much time to prepare and that may play a part in which team is selected.
It’s in defence where the club seem to have had most injuries this season but if everyone is fit and ready it gives Kenny a lot of options across the back four. At right-back he’ll choose between Martin Kelly (sent home early by England Under 21s as a precaution following a slight injury worry) and the fit-again Glen Johnson. At left back he’ll almost certainly go with Jose Enrique, yet to be capped by his country, and it’s unlikely that he’d consider starting without Jamie Carragher at centre-back – but a fully-fit Daniel Agger is almost certain to be preferred to Martin Skrtel.
Elsewhere on the field his selection is harder to predict, as is his preferred formation for this one.
One big question mark is where exactly he feels Steven Gerrard will fit in what is likely to be his first start since March. Under normal circumstances Gerrard would be one of the players arriving back late into the week but he wasn’t involved with England this time having only just started his comeback from groin surgery. The surgery was carried out last season and an infection some time later saw him miss out on the start of this season but that could yet turn out to be a blessing, at least for today. His last game for Liverpool before undergoing the surgery was in the corresponding fixture last season and the Reds’ victory that day was helped in no small way by Gerrard’s determination to play through the pain of the injury. That same determination will be on show from the captain today, without the injury as a distraction, and with the aim of getting his 50th Premier League goal at Anfield.
For Manchester United there are injuries keeping Tom Cleverley and Rafael Da Silva out with some doubts about their captain, Nemanja Vidic, who is close to returning from a calf strain and may play.
Eyes will be on the directors’ box before kick-off, as they were just over a year ago in Liverpool’s last home game under the previous owners. This time the attention is far less hostile, if hostile at all. The presence of a sportsman hardly well-known in this country (Lebron James, he plays basketball) is one reason why cameras will be trained on the posh seats but his presence is designed to make Liverpool a little more well-known in the territories where James is idolised. He owns a small stake in the parent company of Liverpool and will be sitting alongside the major owners of that company, John Henry and Tom Werner, on the anniversary of their takeover (or not, according to this).
Hostilities today will be from Liverpool supporters towards Manchester United and their smaller than usual set of travelling supporters. Liverpool city council enforced a reduction on numbers of tickets to be sold to the side from down the East Lancs due to safety concerns that were reported following their last visit to Anfield. Their manager, Alex Ferguson, has also called on their supporters to refrain from chanting or gesturing about Hillsborough.
Kenny Dalglish hasn’t lost for five games against Manchester United at Anfield, that last defeat was back in 1986 when Alex Ferguson took charge of his first game at Anfield as Manchester United boss on boxing day. Liverpool have won the last three matches at home to Manchester United.
Liverpool FC: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique, Adam, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard, Downing, Suarez, Doni, Agger, Johnson, Coates, Robinson, Spearing, Henderson, Rodriguez, Carroll, Bellamy.
Manchester United: De Gea, Lindegaard, Amos, Smalling, Jones, Evans, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Fabio, Valencia, Nani, Anderson, Carrick, Fletcher, Park, Giggs, Young, Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck, Berbatov, Owen.