After a shaky first half, Simon Mignolet is a serious contender for this season’s Golden Gloves award as the Premier League shot stopped with the most clean sheets. In fact, thanks to a stellar 2015 so far, Mignolet currently stands joint top in clean sheets, his 11 to date equalling West Brom’s Ben Foster and Southampton’s Fraser Forster, and one ahead of Manchester United’s David De Gea.
This weekend, he will have the opportunity to put a bit of distance between himself and De Gea. He will also have the chance to play his part in pushing Liverpool past United and into the top four for the first time since August. The latter, obviously, is what’s most important, and it should make for a loud, impassioned Anfield on Sunday. Mignolet, though, stresses that, when it comes to the players at least, they will need to stay calm.
"We know there will be a huge buildup, but as professional football players we can’t get carried away," said Mignolet. "We have to focus on our jobs, because as a game it’s three points to win or lose. If we are going to make more of it than that we might get flustered or carried away, so we have to address it in a professional manner and make sure we focus on our job rather than what the opponent does or how big a game it is."
Few would have guessed either Liverpool or Mignolet would be in this position following their last match against rivals United. Then, in mid-December, Liverpool were just beginning to turn their season around, but the top four was a long ways off and, despite some apparent promise, there were no guarantee a new tactical approach would get them where they wanted to go. It was also Mignolet’s first match on the bench.
With Mignolet’s Liverpool career apparently over and Brad Jones favoured against United, Liverpool slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford. The loss put the Reds ten points back of United while rumours swirled of potential January replacements between the sticks. Three months later, a win would make Liverpool clear top four favourites. It would also make Mignolet favourite to capture the Golden Gloves.
"We know it’s a big game, and especially playing at home we want to get the three points again," added the Belgian ‘keeper. "That’s the only thing we will think about. We will prepare to our best, as Manchester United will do, and we will be ready at kick off. We’re very pleased with where we are, but there are still a lot of games to play. We just have to keep going and we will see where we are at the end of the season."