Sure, the first game back after an international break isn’t an ideal time for Liverpool supporters to hope for glory. It’s isn’t an ideal time for Liverpool to try and put an end to a Manchester United winning streak. Two weeks have passed with players scattered hither and yon with their national teams or walking their dogs with hoverboards. But there’s no room for easing back into the league. It will be a tense affair at Anfield on Saturday. A win is bragging rights, okay. Brag about it all over. But, more importantly, it could be a tremendous boost of confidence for the Merseyside Reds to get a win from this match and let the wave of jubilation carrying us through to the holidays.
At home. In front of the newly christened Kenny Dalglish Stand. Besting your biggest rival who happens to be on a tear right now. I don’t want to get too dramatic, but three points could be a herculean victory for Jürgen Klopp’s team.
But Manchester United will already be coming to town full of confidence. Their start to the season has put them level on points with Manchester City at the top of the table. You could argue that United’s schedule thus far has been a little light on strong competition but a string of wins is nothing to turn your nose up at in the Premier League. I did a bit of digital correspondence with Brent over at The Busby Babe to gauge the enthusiasm amongst United supporters for their team and the upcoming match.
LO: I haven’t watched a whole lot of Manchester United this season. But I’m not happy about all the winning that’s going on over there. Confidence seems high but on a scale of Roy Hodson to David Moyes, how much exasperated face rubbing do you expect from United supporters on Saturday?
TBB: As happy as we’ve been with the team so far this season, I think everyone knows we haven’t played a real team yet. And given what we know about Jose Mourinho teams in important away matches, no one should be expecting any champagne football on Saturday. But I’m not expecting too much incompetence either. I’m definitely not in the “only results matter” camp, but against you, I’d happily take a 1-0 win on an own goal or a lucky deflection.
LO: Romelu Lukaku is a dream. What other United players do you dream about? This is not a family blog, tell us everything...
TBB: After a really uninspiring few years, United now have a handful of players who can get you out of your seat. Pogba does things on the pitch that are worth the price of admission all on their own. Rashford and Martial can bamboozle defenders in ways that make grown men squeal. My personal fetish is Juan Mata’s first touch. It’s erotic. The sight of Juan Mata bringing a long ball down on his toe and killing it dead makes me wetter than an otter’s pocket.
LO: I suppose I asked for that. Anytime Liverpool and Manchester United play each other engines run pretty hot out on the pitch, but also in the stands and in the pubs and in the living room and presumably in cars, bathrooms, and basically anywhere you can take your mobile device to watch the mayhem. It’s terrific and it’s terrible and you just feel like everything will be okay if Lovren can just keep his head on. Which United player blows your engine block?
TBB: Fellaini was the player at whose appearance on the team sheet or whose number going up on the substitution board would’ve been enough to trigger mental breakdowns all over the globe. But he’s actually been useful and disciplined (stop your laughing, I’m serious) this season. Now, we have a collection of defenders to choose from, any one of whom can cause us to overheat and self-combust. Am I doing this metaphor right? Never mind, too late now.
Daley Blind is a fine footballer, but he’s also the slowest and weakest man on earth, capable of serving up a chance on a platter at any given time. Chris Smalling is so clumsy that I am amazed he makes it through breakfast every morning unscathed. Phil Jones has been good this season but is never far away from going full Phil Jones, losing concentration, giving up a goal-scoring chance, and hurting himself in the process.
LO: Jose Mourinho is an accomplished football manager, there I said it. How did you feel about Mourinho before he went to Manchester? How do you feel about Mourinho now? And are any United fans worried at all about his cult of personality every becoming a problem for the club?
TBB: I wasn’t a Mourinho fan. He’s an all-time great manager but I always thought he was a bit of a prick and a bully. He was chastened by how things ended at Madrid and the second time at Chelsea, though, and I think that humbling has been good for him at United. He’s still Mourinho, but he’s been careful to be on his best behavior, perhaps aware that his reputation needed a bit of restoring for once. Personally, I think he wants to stay for a while and carve out a legacy here. That said, if he wins the league and then starts looking for enemies again, it’s easier to see it going sour in a year or two.
LO: Besides Philippe Coutinho, which Liverpool player do you think will cause United the most problems? Besides Lukaku, which United player is the most likely to make Dejan Lovren fall down?
TBB: Coutinho? Are we in the six weeks of the season when he turns it up? Bit early. Mané running at whichever makeshift left-back we line up with would’ve terrified me, so I’m relieved he’s out. Those are only two of your players I really rate, to be fair. Salah is lightning, but I expect that to be at least partly nullified by Mourinho setting the team up to sit deep and play on the counter. Zzzz...
Besides Lukaku, Martial and Rashford have both started the season in exciting form. Both had mixed second seasons last year and both are playing with more confidence and purpose now. One will start and the other will come off the bench to replace him, which means 90 minutes of headache for some poor defender.
LO: United are currently running neck and neck with Manchester City at the top of the table. Do you expect that bubble to burst or are you confident in your team staying near the top or winning the league this season?
TBB: October will be a big month. If we avoid digging ourselves into a hole with the next several fixtures, I expect us to be challenging for the title. We’re currently one injury in midfield from having to trot out Michael Carrick’s corpse, so luck with injuries will play a big role. But the squad is more balanced than it has been in a long time and (on the third try post-Fergie) we have a manager who knows what he’s doing.
LO: Final score and who scores them?
TBB: Liverpool 1-2 United. Mata. Lukaku (90’, Kop end).
Thanks to Brent at The Busby Babe for initiating the Q&A. It’s always interesting to get a view from the other side. Here’s a link to the reverse fixture: Speaking With The Enemy: A Q&A with the Liverpool Offside.