The match tomorrow is the most eagerly anticipated game against the Dippers in a long time. Liverpool knocked United out of the FA Cup but a few weeks ago and the ongoing and disgusting behaviour by Suarez and Liverpool regarding the racism abuse of Evra has left all United fans salivating at the thought of sticking it to Liverpool at Old Trafford. Added to the fact that we come into this fixture off the back of a memorable 3-3 comeback against Chelsea around the Bridge and you have yourself a tasty context to place this game in.
United have officially announced that Tom Cleverley will return to the squad for the first time since October and provide us with a massive boost in the strength of our midfield options. Tom was a centre-piece for the blistering start that United made to the Premier League this season but injuries to himself and Anderson have led to an ever-changing midfield pairing that has seen the likes of Park, Rooney, Giggs, Carrick and Jones all playing there at separate points. I am a firm believer that the best midfield pairing that United have in the current squad would be Cleverley and Carrick. Although they will not be starting alongside each other tomorrow, with Scholes the more likely partner to Carrick, SAF has confirmed that Tom will play some part in the fixture tomorrow. We have missed a set of young legs running around and snapping at the heels of the opposition in the midfield and the sooner he returns to full match fitness ahead of the run-in, the better.
The last time we played Liverpool we had Scholes and Carrick in the midfield but for all their domination of tempo and possession, we desperately missed Wayne Rooney. Wayne was the difference against Chelsea, not only for his two scorching penalties but for the fact that he effortlessly linked up the midfield to the attack and enabled us to make use of possession that we had. There was nothing more frustrating than watching us dictate the direction of the game without having the creative edge to penetrate their defence but with Rooney looking red hot and Hernandez itching to get his name on the starting line-up once again, I am filled with confidence.
Welbeck has kept Hernandez out of the starting line-up for some time but I called for Javier to start last week as I felt his predatory instincts were needed in a game like Chelsea. I was proved right as he found himself acres of space to nod in the dramatic equaliser and I think he has earned his right to a starting berth tomorrow. The lack of pace in Agger and Skrtel should give Hernandez a chance to run in behind them and if Scholes and Rooney both start, he will have plenty of service in which to do so.
As for our defence, De Gea done himself the world of good last week by pulling out some top drawer saves that ultimately aided United on their way to a point. Tomorrow will be massive for him, given his performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup, so he will be pumped to try and provide the sort of consistency we are all craving for him to deliver. Rafael’s extremely professional and disciplined performance against Chelsea should see him starting on the right of a Ferdinand/Evans pairing, and then there is of course our captain, Patrice.
Tomorrow will be a massive day for Evra and every fan knows it. The ludicrous and downright disgusting way in which Liverpool and Suarez have presented themselves in light of the guilty verdict of Suarez’s guilty verdict of racially abusing Evra is the most unprofessional thing I have seen in the Premier League in a long time. Evra will most likely shake the hand of Suarez because he is a true professional at heart but I think it is a disgrace that he has to. Suarez and Liverpool have publicly refused to apologise and do not deserve the handshake but Evra will only use the past to galvanise his performance. A rare Evra goal tomorrow would be the most glorious moment were it to happen.
With Young putting in a sub-par performance against Chelsea, I think Giggs will turn back the clock and play a game out on the left wing, allowing Scholes and Carrick to stamp authority onto the middle of the park. The form of Valencia will hopefully re-kindle tomorrow and if Hernandez does start, I fully anticipate Valencia to get at least one assist because Javier always darts to the front post in dangerous situations and should be able to turn a fizzing Valencia cross goalwards. Prediction? A sizzling affair that may well see a few goals. After the 3-3 with Chelsea, SAF will want a tightening up at the back but the buzz that will engulf this game at kick-off might spark an entirely different style of play. We need to win tomorrow and we will win, if not just for Patrice, so I will put tomorrow down as a 3-1 victory. Bring it on.