One of the most eagerly anticipated Manchester United vs Liverpool games kicks off on Sunday, with the betting the closest it's been for years!
United, in turmoil and fighting to clinch fourth, face a Liverpool side with an outside chance of winning the Premier League this season.
To commemorate this monumental Premier League encounter, we pitted two legends from opposite ends of the East Lancashire Road up against one another to help us predict best bets and assess the key factors for the upcoming match at Old Trafford.
Step forward Unibet ambassadors Ronny Johnsen and Glenn Hysen, who give their thoughts in an exclusive preview for Unibet ...
Ronny Johnsen: I remember us winning 3-1 back in 1996/1997. I remember it not just because we went on to win the Premier League title, but because my colleague in central defence, Gary Pallister, scored two in that game. He wasn’t often to be found among the goals – a man that delivered 12 over the course of over 300 league games for United.
Glenn Hysen: The best memory I have from a game against Manchester United is when we won 4-0 at Anfield 1990. I think it is more of a rivalry between Liverpool and United than Liverpool and Everton. There is always a fantastic atmosphere - you can´t really describe it. You have to be there and feel it. As a player you must have focus in every match. But you get reminded about the game every day all week since all the publicity in media.
RJ: Every player will know that this match represents something special. The feeling gets stronger the closer to the match you get because people around the city are buzzing. The players that have been at the club the longest are extra motivated on occasions like this. It feels like this until you get to the hotel on the morning of the game, at which point you begin your preparation and try to shut out the outside world.
GH: When I was at Liverpool, this was the biggest match of the season, bar none. The Merseyside derby matches against Liverpool were great, but this was something extra special. You can feel the hatred from the United supporters as you enter the pitch at Old Trafford – I can recall hearing some pretty foul language directed our way, particularly during the warm-up. But most of the players today are more used to the big match pressure. I’m sure it’s nothing they can’t handle.
SEASON SO FAR
RJ: There is much work to be done in the coming weeks and months for United. We’ve struggled massively, and hardly anything’s worked out on the pitch. With the 3-0 away win vs West Brom everything looks a tad brighter. The Baggies would normally not be a yardstick, but this is actually a club we lost to at home (1-2) six months ago.
Personally I find it ridiculous when people say David Moyes was Sir Alex Ferguson’s personal choice. The same goes for those claiming that the only reason Moyes hasn’t been booted out is some misunderstood loyalty to Ferguson. It was the club as a whole who appointed him – and they stand united behind Moyes now. Like I’ve said in previous interviews, we don’t collect 5th or 6th finishes but Moyes will be able to build a new team over the coming months.
Terrible performances and lack of results will always create speculations around the manager’s future. However, I can guarantee Moyes will still be United manager come next season. This club’s not into the sacking game. Instead they’ll hand Moyes the chequebook and give him the opportunity to reshape the squad.
GH: Of course I am very happy with how Liverpool have been playing this season. The defence is better this season and Sturridge and Suarez add great power in attack. You can see on the pitch that they enjoy playing together. They are incredible. I also think Jordan Henderson is having a great season. When Brendan Rodgers was coaching Swansea, they played entertaining football that I enjoyed to watch. He has brought his philosophy to Liverpool and last year the results were good, but this year even better! It´s great to see that the club has been patient with the coach.
WHAT WILL BE KEY FOR VICTORY ON SUNDAY?
RJ: Suarez must be kept quiet. The Uruguayan is the top scorer in the Premier League with 24 goals, while partner in crime – Sturridge – has 18 to his name. Smalling and Jones are in for a hectic afternoon. The Saints had 57% possession versus Liverpool, but the latter has a striker able to create goals from thin air.
United must make the central midfield work. Some positive signs vs West Brom, but I just don’t think Fellaini is a “United midfielder”. A decent squad player, but Fletcher is better. This match is of significance to both teams. Three of the last five between these teams have ended 2-1 and I think this will be another close battle.
GH: I think the key man for Liverpool will be Steven Gerrard. Suarez and Sturridge need him on the pitch because with the captain’s brilliant game, they won’t score.
In my opinion Liverpool should play really offensively. United are on a bad streak and we should exploit that. But one moment without focus and there could be a goal. Neither Rooney or Robin van Persie are playing at the top of their capacity but they are still not to be underestimated.
I will watch the game in a sports bar together with fans from both sides. The atmosphere will be great and I’m really looking forward to it – just the thought gives me goosebumps. A victory for Liverpool and they are right in the title race. It could be a thriller.
RJ: 2-1 United (9.50)
GH: 2-0 to Liverpool (15.00)
RJ: Van Persie and Rooney to score any time (2.25 and 2.70, respectively)
GH: Suarez and Sturridge to score any time (2.18 and 2.33, respectively)
Mignolet to keep a clean sheet (4.10).