United have a score to settle and three points to win, while Liverpool have 18 reasons to put the skids under our title challenge...
What’s the beef?
We double doubled them in 2006/07 and 2007/08, but Liverpool have beaten us in the last three meetings – 2-1 at Anfield and that horrendous 4-1 at Old Trafford last term, and 2-0 at Anfield earlier this season. We’ll be looking for some serious payback. For Liverpool, fear is the spur: fear of the 19th title that inches us ahead of their tally. They’ve long considered themselves kings of the English league – lose that record and the essence of their very identity is under threat. Anything else? Well, just the fact that it’s United v Liverpool.
What’s at stake?
First and foremost, three points. United will be desperate to avoid any slips in the race for the wire – especially at home. So a maximum haul has to be the primary aim. Liverpool arguably have more to lose. Rafa has boldly promised the fans fourth spot, which looks anything but a dead cert with Villa, Spurs and City still in the hunt. The consequences of not securing that slot could be huge – could Rafa survive it? Then there are the financial ramifications of failing to reach the Champions League – a huge blow to the club’s coffers, never mind pride.
The first name United will look for on the Liverpool team sheet will be that of Fernando Torres. El Nino has scored in two of those last three Liverpool wins, getting the better of both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in the process. Steven Gerrard is the other danger man – skipper, inspiration and driving force. Without those two Liverpool have often looked ordinary. Having said that, both were on the bench last season when Liverpool beat us at Anfield and Gerrard missed this season’s game. All eleven should be watched like hawks, then – no quarter given.
If anyone will be on an individual crusade to set the recent record straight against Liverpool, it will be Vidic. The big man has bad memories of recent encounters: in last season’s 2-1 defeat at Anfield he was sent off, in the 4-1 at Old Trafford he had a thoroughly forgettable game and was also sent off, and in this season’s 2-0 Anfield defeat… he was, that’s right, you guessed it, sent off. He’ll be looking instead to memories of his first four league games against Liverpool – four clean sheets, four wins, every minute played and not so much as a booking. That’ll do nicely.