Last night, Liverpool beat Manchester Utd 1-0 at Anfield. Jermaine Pennant slotted home a 25 yard free-kick from just to the left of the "D" of the penalty box. Tevez went off injured, which helped, and both Reina and Gerrard put in great performances. The margin of victory would've been greater if Fernando Torres had put away one of his two one-on-ones. There was no danger of a Man Utd comeback either - Liverpool won a succession of corners in the three minutes of injury time.
Ok, so it was just Football Manager 2008 and not the real thing, but the game is surprisingly accurate!
Here's the formation I played:
Agger (who did NOT break his meta-tarsal in my game)
I had Arbeloa man-mark Cronaldo and Carragher kept tabs on Tevez and then Saha after he went off. Thankfully, Rooney was suspended.
I have to admit that I haven't watched a great deal of Man Utd matches this season, but those I have, I've been impressed. The team has some quality "off the ball" players with fantastic movement and, if the people pulling the strings in midfield play well, they are very tough to come close to, let alone beat.
That said, we're on a fine run of form and, while we lost to Reading last weekend, are coming off a fine run of form, including that vital 4-0 win on Tuesday night. We've also played really well against the other two "big-four" teams when both times our opponents have clawed a goal back - through fair means or foul. After seasons of under-performing against our Premiership rivals, it seems as if we've found a form of consistency and a style of play that works against them.
I'm guessing Rafa's teamtalk/pre-match preparations will sound something like:
Don't try to do too much
Play within yourselves
Stay organised at the back
Realise that you won't have it all your own way
Don't panic when the pressure comes
Don't get over excited when we're dominating the game
Play for each other
Keep your composure
Take your chances
Realise your potential
[Cripple Cronaldo early doors]
I think if we do all these, we'll be able to win. If we get flustered, try to do too much or get over-excited by the big occasion, which it is, I have a feeling Man Utd will walk all over us. The thing is, while all Liverpool fans are getting worked up about playing the in-form team in the league right now, their fans and players will be seeing the results we've been getting and will be doing exactly the same.
Keep the faith - you'll never walk alone.
Liverpool Offside prediction:
Manchester United 1