Liverpool must lose inferiority complex when it comes to United
If Liverpool are serious about a title challenge, and there hasn’t been much evidence to support their case yet, they should prove it by shrugging off their inferiority complex when it comes to playing Manchester United.
Long after Manchester United had usurped Liverpool as England’s top club, there was still a feeling at Anfield that they were at least equal to their chief rivals when it came to a one-off game.
Since the days of Gerard Houllier, things have been different. Houllier enjoyed a good record against United but it was achieved by shifting the emphasis to watertight defence and strict tactical discipline in those games.
That has continued under Rafa Benitez and Liverpool will doubtless go into Saturday’s game at Anfield bent on denying space to United’s dangerous forwards and hoping for the best on the break or from a set-piece (while getting a European Cup-style boost from the crowd).
I argued earlier this week that England should shake off their fear of failure and they seemed to do that against Croatia. Can Liverpool do the same? Can they go out in front of their own fans and play against (a superior) United side with their old sense of belief?
I’d argue that they should do, even if they risk a hiding if United play to their potential. It’s a tactic Steven Gerrard appeared to be urging as well when he spoke this week:
“Over the last couple of years we’ve gone into games against United and Chelsea very organised tactically – defensive if you like – and still lost 1-0,” Gerrard said. “It’s important a few risks are taken to try to score that goal against these teams because it gives you such a psychological boost.”
Gerrard may miss the game through injury but the players out there should heed those words. If Liverpool are serious about challenging for the title they should play like they mean it.
PHOTO: Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard controls the ball during a training session at Melwood, August 26, 2008. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis