Anfield ready for visit of arch rivals from Old Trafford.
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This weekend sees the 60th birthday of Kenny Dalglish and the visit of Manchester United to Anfield. It could end up being more significant to the reds of Merseyside than their dominant masters down the East Lancs road.
Rather than being the icing on the cake for United as they march towards their nineteenth title, trumping Liverpool’s record tally in the process, it could be the day that Liverpool launch a brighter future.
With Sir Alex Ferguson’s comment about Knocking Liverpool off their perch no doubt still fresh in Kenny’s mind this is a real chance for Liverpool to make a statement of intent. A chance for them to announce that under new owners, with a new manager and a fresh crop of players, they are ready to compete again.
The two Glaswegians rivalry goes back a lot further than their managerial spats during Kenny’s time at Blackburn – where he famously commented during a Ferguson TV interview that the reporter would “get more sense out of his baby than him [Ferguson]” – and his two Liverpool spells.
As an 18 year old at Celtic Jock Stein played Kenny at centre half against Sir Alex in an Old Firm reserve team clash. The fact both managers claim it was a game they won says all you need to know about their rivalry and will to win.
Though history will always play a big part in this clash, for Liverpool it now has to be about the future. They now have nothing left to play for this season so Kenny has the perfect opportunity to go for a win with no added pressure.
This fixture under Rafael Benitez’s reign always had more relevance. Liverpool were usually in need of points to cement Champions League qualification and the naturally cagey Benitez would always play cautiously.
On Sunday Kenny needs to be bold and make a statement of intent about where he wants to take the club.
A convincing victory will not only restore Merseyside pride after two defeats to United already this season but lay the foundation for a resurgent Liverpool to mount a more credible challenge for the Premiership next season.
With Rio Ferdinand injured, Nemanja vidic suspended and rumours that Andy carroll could be about to make his debut, liverpool look capable of taking advantage of the defensive frailties United have previously shown without their two key defenders. If Kenny chooses to attack united by getting Meriles and Gerrard forward early to support either Carroll or Suarez or even both it could be the perfect way to expose the lack of United’s strength in depth.
Back to back Premier League defeats for United will be unthinkable for Ferguson at this stage of the season and they will not want to be going to The Emirates in May followed by Chelsea at home without some points in hand. A defeat for United could see the pack suddenly back with them and that 19th title that looked a formality just a month ago suddenly in the balance.
Despite the fact that Kenny has rejected all talk in press conferences about this being a chance to put a dent in United’s attempt to win their 19th title, in private no doubt he would be feeling the same way as Ferguson was all those years ago. There is undoubtedly nothing he would prefer than to knock those f*****s off their perch and a win this weekend would give further proof to the Kop faithful that he has moved from being the King to the Messiah.
There could be no better way for Kenny to celebrate his birthday than to put one over on his old rival, announce the rebirth of Liverpool and blow this seasons title race wide open, while Sir Alex Ferguson will be thinking about delivering the final blow to Liverpool’s perch.