Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United v Liverpool Europa League: Graeme Souness tips his old club to finish the job

By Graham Luney

Liverpool legend Graeme Souness feels Manchester United can give his old side an almighty scare tonight but he still believes Louis van Gaal's Europa League dream will go up in smoke.

United must overturn a two-goal deficit in the second leg of their Europa League tie at Old Trafford tonight (8.05pm) but few supporters are predicting a ferocious comeback.

Van Gaal's side have lacked the kind of bite, aggression, passion and leadership that Souness displayed during his glittering playing career.

During six incredible years with Liverpool, the Edinburgh man won five League Championships, three European Cups and four League Cups.

In the early 1990s he took charge of the Merseyside giants, tasting FA Cup success in 1992.

The 62-year-old was in Belfast yesterday on a tour with the European Championship trophy as a Carlsberg ambassador and even his handshake has a no-nonsense feel!

Now a television pundit, his hard hitting and brutally honest opinions reflect his playing career. The former Scotland skipper was an inspirational leader, ready to go to war. Van Gaal's United have lacked steel and leadership and while they might rise to the occasion tonight, Souness believes Liverpool can net that crucial away goal, meaning United would have to score four times.

"United could get an early goal or Liverpool get a player sent off or the referee makes a bad decision - all those things can happen," said former Newcastle United boss Souness.

"You always have a chance and I'm sure United will be annoyed at the fact they didn't turn up in the first game. I can see them winning the game but I can also see Liverpool scoring.

"Going into the game, everyone was talking about Van Gaal's great record against Liverpool but at Anfield on the night there was only one team that wanted to win it.

"Liverpool went at United from the off and it wasn't until a period in the second-half when United got a foothold in the game. When Liverpool got the second goal the game slipped away from United.

"United will be feeling angry and must put on a show for their supporters and I think they can win but I also feel Liverpool will get what could prove to be a crucial goal."

Souness, who made 359 Liverpool appearances, scoring 55 goals, believes Jurgen Klopp means business at Anfield but Van Gaal's United future hangs in the balance.

"Jurgen Klopp appears to be a good fit for Liverpool - he's passionate and emotional and that is what Liverpool Football Club is all about," added Souness, who helped bring 15 major trophies to Anfield in his six years as a player at the club, and remains one of just four Reds captains to lift the European Cup.

"I think Van Gaal has got to qualify for the Champions League if he wants to keep his job. West Ham will be a handful at Upton Park in the FA Cup and he is already up against it in the Europa League. The bottom line is that he has got to get them into the Champions League."

On the domestic front, Leicester City are five points ahead of Spurs - the club where Souness began his playing career - in the Premier League title race but he's not convinced the Foxes can come home first.

"There's part of me that still believes Leicester City are going to have a collapse," added Souness.

"Their last three games are Man United, Everton and Chelsea. We just haven't seen anything like this before with a team that is so unfancied winning the Premier League so it would be a big surprise."

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