View from the enemy: Liverpool fan previews Manchester United clash

Stretty News spoke to Empire of the Kop writer Farrell Keeling – a lifelong supporter of Liverpool.

The Red Army travels to Merseyside on Sunday for a fixture that hasn’t served Manchester United well for quite some time. The difference this time is we go into the game in much better form and could do the double over Liverpool!

Farrell Keeling gives us a Liverpool perspective ahead of the game. You can follow him on Twitter here: @farrellkeeling

Manchester United haven’t won away at Anfield since 2016. How confident are you ahead of the game?

Farrell: “If you’d asked me that question right after the humbling 5-2 defeat to Real Madrid, I’d have given a much more exciting answer for the visitors. Despite Manchester United’s resurgence under Erik ten Hag – decline of fellow top four competitors or no, the Red Devils look far more competent than prior iterations under the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jose Mourinho, etc. – our recent league form has given me a great deal of hope that we can extract a positive result from what is sure to be a challenging occasion. That’s not to say I can’t understand why pundits are backing United to get a first win at Anfield since 2016; if they catch us at our absolute dysfunctional worse, I think such an outcome is more than likely for the visitors. That being said, if Liverpool can showcase an ability to suffer on the day and remain patient, I’m confident we’ll grab a goal or two dependent on what kind of mood our forward line is in.”

What’s the general feeling among Liverpool fans when it comes to Jurgen Klopp?

Farrell: “Same as ever, I’d say. You get the odd outlier on Twitter (I remain convinced that these can’t possibly be real Liverpool fans) that bizarrely suggests his time has come but 99.99% of supporters, online or offline, are fully behind the manager. There’s some recognition, and rightly so, of poor decision-making on his part in various instances this term but I think the general consensus is that he’s the right man to lead a much-needed rebuild in the summer. There’s quite simply no manager better suited to the task!”

How do you feel about Fenway Sports Group and would you prefer if they sold the club?

Farrell: “I’m of the opinion that the decision to exit the owner market following a lack of suitable interest is the right decision. You have to think all the uncertainty behind the scenes has to have been playing at least some part in our on-field struggles of late whilst key members of the backroom staff have been exiting stage left en masse. It means that, hopefully, the club can focus all its energy on ensuring that appropriate appointments are made to fill various voids and prepare for a summer of change with the squad. That’s not to say I would have been against the prospect of new ownership (provided that the party in question doesn’t have links to human rights abuses). I still feel that, unless Fenway can secure significant fresh investment, they are being outpaced by the new money of Manchester City and Newcastle United, and now that Arsenal’s ownership have apparently changed tack, United have a good manager and Chelsea are spending freely, the balance of power could quickly shift in an uncomfortable direction. Ultimately, FSG need to remember that, if they still have designs on selling the club at a later stage, it doesn’t bode well for them to allow the club’s value to depreciate due to its increasing inability to compete.” 

Which United player, if any, would you like to see at Liverpool?

Farrell: “Judging by his recent form, I’d probably go for Casemiro! He’s really not what Liverpool need in terms of the age profile but the instant injection of quality he provides is phenomenal. Fabinho’s starting to come back into form, so Liverpool could have a fantastic duo to play the double six in the Brazilian and Stefan Bajcetic. However, I think the former Real Madrid man would make into most first-XIs in the Premier League on current form. From the Carabao Cup final alone, you can tell he’s one of those special kinds of players to have breathed in and be forever transformed by the Madrid air. Just look at how unfazed Carlo Ancelotti’s men were by a rocking Anfield after being blitzed in the opening 20 minutes. More to the point, though, Casemiro is exactly the kind of player you want in a final, a knockout competition, and just generally in a squad with high expectations. Superb.” 

How do you think you will do between now and the end of the season?

Farrell: “There’s a tendency in football to be supremely reactive on a game-to-game basis and not look at the bigger picture. There’s no question that, after the first-half of action against Real Madrid, Liverpool were diabolically poor against the incumbent Champions League holders. That being said, and putting the disappointment of a stale, goalless draw with Crystal Palace to one side, Jurgen Klopp’s men have secured 10 points from an available 12 in their last four league fixtures and kept clean sheets in all of them. Yes, Manchester United will offer a more serious challenge, but the improvement is evident. It was at the Molineux admittedly, but to win 2-0 against Wolves after being battered 3-0 in the reverse meeting is encouraging. We should be aiming for a lot more in general, of course, but this is where we’re at this term – top four, and likely nothing more, is the aim. I reckon we’ll get there and so will United, for what it’s worth.”

Which players should we watch out for on current form?

Farrell: “The forward line is looking really good at the moment, particularly the combination of Darwin Nunez, Cody Gakpo and Mo Salah. The Dutchman was only on the pitch briefly against Wolves but made an instant impact, helping combine for Mo Salah’s lead-doubling goal. Nunez, in particular, is frightening at times. Yes, criticism over his lethality in front of goal is slightly warranted, but we’re talking about a player who’s on 12 goals in all competitions (a goal every 144 minutes; factor in assists and it’s a goal contribution every 108.1 minutes). I’d be remiss not to mention breakout star Stefan Bajcetic who, quite clearly, is destined for a very bright future in the game. The lad plays with absolutely no fear at 18 years of age, such to an extent that he’d kept Fabinho benched prior to his recent resurgence. I’m telling you right now – watch this kid.”

What do you think of Manchester United a) the club; b) the team; c) the fans and d) the manager?

Farrell: “As a die-hard Liverpool fan of many years (and through much in the way of suffering, as I’m sure United fans can recently attest to themselves), I’m sure my general opinion of United goes without saying! From a purely journalistic perspective, you have to be impressed with how the manager has completely turned things around. I was talking to another suffering friend of mine who’s a massive Chelsea fan about the merits of Graham Potter when he made a rather interesting point. Ten Hag was faced with a particularly tricky dilemma in Cristiano Ronaldo in the first-half of the season that was no doubt a turning point in your season. The trickiest part of the job was never going to be getting transfers right or fixing the tactics – it was always going to revolve around how successfully a manager could revolutionise the culture. Where Potter has, perhaps, been less assertive in his management style at Stamford Bridge, Ten Hag made it abundantly clear with the Ronaldo saga that ‘its my way, or the highway, pal’. The response he’s gotten from this squad since then is remarkable.

“Having experienced the horrors of incompetent American ownership (you heard me, Hicks and Gillett), I completely sympathise with what supporters are currently going through with the Glazers. That being said, I really do hope – and absolutely not from a competitive standpoint, but a moralistic and ethical one – that a club of the stature and significance of United don’t go anywhere near groups with deep connections to human rights abusing regimes. Like Liverpool, you’ve got an extremely passionate fanbase that will get its views across clearly when the need arises and hopefully that’ll ensure you get in a group or investor that genuinely cares about the club and its values.”

Best and worst memories from games involving Manchester United and Liverpool.

Farrell: “Battering you 5-0 at Old Trafford a couple of years ago has to be up there. Let’s be honest as well, if Jurgen Klopp hadn’t ordered his XI to take the foot off the gas and conserve energy, it might have ended up a cricket score. Worst… There are more obvious moments to go for but the 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford back in the 15/16 campaign has sprung to mind. Perhaps more for the general aura of downtroddeness and the absence of hope during the death rattle of the Brendan Rodgers regime. Things didn’t take too long to improve though, thanks to the arrival of one affable German!”

High and low point as a Liverpool fan this season?

Farrell: “It’s hard to talk about a low point because they’ve just kept on coming this season – it’s been utterly relentless at times. It’s the most obvious one to go for but I’d have to say the 5-2 defeat to Real Madrid. Mostly because it really showed where we stand in the European hierarchy, which is a humbling reality to contend with after reaching the final (and being the better team on the night) and competing for a quadruple the prior term. Alas, these are the cards we’ve been dealt and hopefully, with the aid of Champions League qualification, we’ll start fixing things this summer with some quality additions.

“My high point was the first 20 minutes of the defeat to Los Blancos. You could see exactly what the next great Liverpool side may very well look and feel like. There will be some serious conversations had over certain players but having the likes of Darwin Nunez, Stefan Bajcetic and Ibrahima Konate in your squad shows there’s a great deal to be excited about if our recruitment team can keep getting things right.”

All-time Liverpool cult hero and why?

Farrell: “It’s a modern one but I’m going with Divock Origi. There’s a player we sorely miss! Many a time this season we’ve been crying out for an impact player who can come on when not much is going on and snatch a late goal from out of nowhere. The Belgian will always be remembered for his Champions League final goal and his performance in the semi-final against Barcelona (“Corner taken quickly…. ORIGI!” Anyone?). Never once complained about his status in the squad, humble, a nice guy – just an all-round great personality to have in the squad.”

Favourite Liverpool XI from players you have seen?

GK: Alisson Becker

LB: Andy Robertson

CB: Virgil van Dijk

CB: Jamie Carragher

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold

DM: Fabinho

CM: Xabi Alonso

CAM: Steven Gerrard

LW: Sadio Mane

ST: Luis Suarez

RW: Mo Salah

Predict the score of the game at Anfield this weekend.

Farrell: “Both managers will want the points (and the glory) but I reckon Erik ten Hag privately wouldn’t be distraught with a draw. I’ve got to back Liverpool, though. 2-1 to the hosts.”

Get the most important Manchester United news, opinion, interviews and exclusive features with the Stretty Newsletter – Ad Free! Kick off your afternoon with the Stretty News verdict on all matters Manchester United.

More Stories Casemiro Erik ten Hag FSG Jurgen Klopp Liverpool Manchester United