Sir Alex Ferguson always maintains it is the biggest match in the English football calendar, and for once I’m not about to argue with him.
Liverpool host Manchester United on Saturday lunchtime in the Premier League’s glamour fixture, and the great news for the millions watching around the world (it’s a good job Bolton aren’t playing, eh Ian Ayre?) is that it promises to match the hype and deliver goals.
Nine goals were scored in the two matches between the sides last season, both home wins, and with each side looking far more accomplished going forward than they do in defence I can only envisage a similar outcome.
Kenny Dalglish’s men have kept just two clean sheets all season, which includes Carling Cup trips to Brighton and Exeter, and haven’t kept one at Anfield in three league games against Sunderland, Bolton and Wolves.
In fact their only clean sheets have come against the ten men of both Arsenal and Everton: that hardly augurs well when the Champions are coming to town having scored 24 times – 24! – in seven league games.
But then United have hardly been their rock-solid selves.
They have only kept three clean sheets in the league, new goalkeeper David de Gea still has a clanger in him, the back four never seems to be settled and they have in recent weeks looked extremely vulnerable.
An average Basel side scored three at Old Trafford in the Champions League and how Norwich didn’t score last time out is a mystery that is still probably keeping Paul Lambert awake at night.
So it has all the makings of a goal-fest, but what we want to know is who is going to score them?
I’ve written about Luis Suarez a fair bit over the last few weeks but at 11/2 to open the scoring he has got to be the play in what I think is going to be an incredibly open match.
Suarez gave United the run-around in this fixture back in March, having a direct hand in each one of Dirk Kuyt’s hat-trick in a 3-1 win and he looks set to give the Red Devils’ defence another torrid time.
Suarez has hit the goal trail – he has scored in his last three matches, including last weekend for Uruguay – and it is not often you will see such a big price for him to score first, especially at Anfield where Dalglish has an 8-3-1 record since returning as boss in January. Suarez is 7/5 to score anytime.
As for United, I’m going to look beyond 5/1 favourite Wayne Rooney, despite his excellent form.
Not just because of the furore that has surrounded his Euro 2012 suspension – no one knows how he will react to that – but because his record in this fixture is disappointing.
He has just one Anfield goal and has quite often found that this match has passed him by, not least because of Ferguson’s tactic of stationing Rooney out wide.
He may not do that this time thanks to the form of Ashley Young, who looks nicely priced at 8/1 to score first and 9/4 anytime.
Young has started his United career brilliantly since his summer switch from Aston Villa, scoring five goals already this season, including two for England.
Liverpool’s defence is susceptible to pace, Young has that in abundance and you can imagine him causing whoever plays right back for Liverpool – a real problem area thanks to continuous injuries – a real hard afternoon.
I’m not sure if he’ll start, but Javier Hernandez also has all the attributes that trouble Liverpool’s central defence – pace, agility, fantastic movement – and he always looks like he is about to score a goal.
He did exactly that in this fixture in March, and the 6/1 he scores first (or last if he is a substitute) and 8/5 anytime would tempt me if he looks set to spend time on the pitch.
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