Ahead of Sunday’s visit of Man United to Anfield we got the pre-match thoughts of former Liverpool defender Rob Jones, who made his debut in this fixture back in 1991, marking Ryan Giggs at Old Trafford – just two days after signing from fourth division Crewe Alexandra.
“It was a massive step up” recalls Rob. “On the Wednesday I was playing a game for Crewe in the fourth division. By Friday I’d signed for Liverpool.”
The boyhood Liverpool fan kept Giggs quiet, despite his nerves, and went on to make over 200 appearances for the club.
Like Rob 21 years ago, there will be plenty of players in red appearing in this fixture for the first time on Sunday. We asked him about the pressure involved in these fixtures, especially for the young lads.
Jones spoke of the importance of his old teammate Mike Marsh, who was recently appointed first-team coach by Brendan Rodgers. “He’s so good at getting the best out of players, especially the younger lads.”
“He’ll be chatting to them in the couple of days before the game, reassuring them, telling them to play their own game, not get overawed. He’s a great asset for Liverpool.”
Here’s Rob’s thoughts on the key battles on the pitch…
Head to Head Battles
Allen vs Kagawa
“Allen’s put a lot of work in in his first few games. His passes have been exceptional. With Liverpool being at home, if Allen can take the game by the scruff of the neck, that’s where we can win it. If we win the midfield battles and not leave Suarez up there by himself, we’ve definitely got a good chance.”
Suarez vs Vidic
“He’s [Suarez] caused Vidic a few problems [in the past]. You watch Suarez on TV and the defenders know where he’s gonna go but you just can’t stop him because he’s so sharp where he twists on the spot then goes jinking the other way. He’s so difficult to mark and, again, with Liverpool being at home, Suarez is going to come out on top.”
van Persie vs Skrtel/Agger
“Obviously last season van Persie was unbelievable, everything he touched seemed to go in. He’s a big threat but I think that our back four is pretty good. We need to stay tight on him, keep him off his left foot where possible. He’s definitely going to be their danger man.”
“The trouble is that we could dominate possession then late on the ball falls to van Persie [like last season at home to Arsenal]. So all the defenders and keeper need to stay sharp for the full 90 minutes when you’ve got van Persie around.”
Gerrard vs Carrick
“At the beginning of the season it was said that he [Gerrard] was getting older now and he might not be able to do as much running, but quite a few games that I’ve seen him this season, he’s been covering all areas of the pitch.”
“Steven Gerrard’s a match winner and always has been. I think it’s Carrick who needs to be worrying about Gerrard and not Gerrard worrying about Carrick definitely.”
Sterling vs Evra or Rafael
“Sterling’s been brilliant at the start of the season. What Gary Neville was saying about him was spot on – he doesn’t just take a player on like a headless chicken and throw a dodgy pass in, as he’s taking players on he’s looking up and making sure the pass is the right pass. The way he’s playing is not like a seventeen year old at all. I think Man United will be worrying about him on Sunday.”
“I think he should probably start on the left, because Rafael can be a bit wreckless at times. If Sterling can get past him a couple of times, it can put pressure on him, get him a yellow card early on the game could open up because they will be forced to double up on Sterling which frees up space for the likes of Gerrard and Suarez.”
2-1 Liverpool, Gerrard and Suarez to score.
Rob’s autobiography will be released later this year.