Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United are not good enough to attack Liverpool, blasts former United midfielder


Crunch time: Man United’s Jose Mourinho and Pool boss Jurgen Klopp
Crunch time: Man United’s Jose Mourinho and Pool boss Jurgen Klopp
Former Red Devil Darren Fletcher

By Carl Markham

Former Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher has passed a damning judgment of his former side, and has predicted them to sit deep in this weekend's game against Liverpool.

Liverpool against Manchester United has always been one of the glamour ties of the English game, with the two sides racking up an incredible 38 league titles between them.

However, with the two rivals preparing to do battle once more this weekend, they couldn't go into the game in much more contrasting form, with Jurgen Klopp's side sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League, while Manchester United are down in sixth and in awful form.

Both sides have progressed to the knockout stages of the Champions League having finished second in their respective groups but, having watched United's 2-1 defeat against Valencia on Wednesday night, former Red Devils midfielder Fletcher reckons that Jose Mourinho's side aren't good enough to play an open brand of football, claiming it would be 'suicidal'.

"Manchester United are not drilled enough, they don't have enough patterns, so to go and do that, to play Liverpool in an open game, would be suicidal," Fletcher said.

"The last two seasons at Anfield have been 0-0 and that has shown United sitting back, being hard to beat, looking to nick opportunities on the counter-attack or from set-pieces but not through taking the game to Liverpool.

"Jose Mourinho will be fully aware of Liverpool's strengths, nullifying them, sitting deep, not giving them space behind, not letting them win the ball in turnovers in dangerous areas. All that will be ruled out.

"It will be instructions to play in Liverpool's half, missing the midfield out. You will probably see Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini and pace either side of Romelu Lukaku."

Gini Wijnaldum, meanwhile, has warned his Liverpool team-mates they must not underestimate Manchester United despite the Old Trafford club's slow start to the season.

"It's a nice game and we'll try to put in the same performance that we did against Napoli," said Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum.

"Things can happen, everyone can have a bad season. I think the year before I came, Liverpool finished last season with the same players and they finished second. One season goes well, one season a little bit more difficult.

"It doesn't mean they have a bad team: they have good players, a good manager, and they know how to manage games and win games - or not to lose games. It is going to be difficult."

United haven't lost a league game at Anfield since 2013, winning two and drawing two over the past four seasons.

Meanwhile, Roy Keane has been confirmed as a pundit for Sky Sports' coverage of Liverpool v Man United on Sunday - alongside LFC stalwarts Graeme Souness and Jamie Carragher.

United fans will see Keane's no-nonsense style for the first time since he left his job as Republic of Ireland assistant manager last month.

And if that was not enough, he will be alongside former Liverpool defender Carragher and ex-Reds manager Souness for the game.

Keane's former United teammates Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand have been critical of United this season and the tactics employed by Mourinho.

United have been disappointing this season, and the midweek defeat in Valencia was their seventh in all competitions as they find themselves sixth in the league and out of the Carabao Cup.

Mourinho's side are 16 points behind Liverpool, who are top of the table after 16 games, and while fans will be keen to hear Keane's opinion of this season's difficulties on and off the field, part of them will wish their ruthless former captain was still playing.

Paul Merson admitted he'll be 'shocked' if Liverpool don't beat United on Sunday, although he believes Klopp's men are under fresh pressure after climbing to the summit of the Premier League.

The Arsenal and Aston Villa legend was desperately unimpressed with United's 2-1 defeat to Valencia in the Champions League on Wednesday night and expects them to be beaten comfortably by Klopp's table toppers.

Liverpool rose above Manchester City with a win over Bournemouth last weekend - with Chelsea defeating Pep Guardiola's side - and booked their spot in the last-16 of the Champions League with a narrow 1-0 win over Napoli on Tuesday evening.

Merson is fully expecting Liverpool to roll United over at home, predicting a 2-0 win, although he thinks the Reds will face a new type of pressure now they are the frontrunners in the Premier League title race.

He said: "I'd be shocked if Liverpool don't get a result, probably like the rest of the nation! I watched United on Wednesday night and oh my God. They play under pressure week in, week out.

"You wouldn't understand the pressure that they are playing under as players of Manchester United.

"They then go to Valencia, a chance for them to express themselves, with nothing to lose, against nowhere near one of the best Spanish teams in the league. Go and express yourselves! And what happened?

"Oh my God. I just cannot see where United win this football match. But that isn't to say there isn't huge pressure on Liverpool too, as they have to stay in front. It's a different pressure now they are top."

Liverpool vs Man Utd

Premier League

Anfield, Sunday, 4.00pm

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