MATCHDAY PROGRAMME

Man United aware “this shouldn’t be a contest” – Liverpool can “do what they want”

Man United supporters are at yet another low ebb ahead of their trip to Liverpool this weekend, with another heavy Reds win at Anfield predicted.

It doesn’t matter where both sides are in the Premier League table, this remains the biggest fixture in English football.

On Sunday, high-flying Liverpool welcome all-at-sea United to Anfield, and while everything points to a home win, this game has thrown up shocks in the past.

Ahead of the game, we spoke to former Morning Star sports editor Kadeem Simmonds (@KadeemSimmonds) to hear about his side’s woes, Liverpool’s title challenge and much more.

 

Just how disappointing has Man United’s season been?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 3, 2023: Manchester United's Mason Mount during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Galatasaray S.K. at Old Trafford. Galatasaray won 3-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Not kicking on from last season is a massive disappointment. I had no expectations of winning the Champions League, but expected to progress to the knockout stages with ease.

To finish bottom was the next best thing for me – I didn’t want a season in the Europa League and this team needs a week on the training field to try and figure out what they are doing and get players back from injury.

The league form has been up and down, and the fact we are 10 points off top place and six points off fourth means our disaster of a season isn’t that bad.

As long as we are still in the hunt heading into January I will take that.

The injuries have been laughable, however, and it has coincided with a squad that has no confidence, and the slightest injustice sends them spiralling.

But at this point, this is the natural cycle of United manager’s post Alex Ferguson. Start well, think you have turned a corner only to realise the corner has you back where you started.

 

Is it time for a change of manager?

Not yet. I know a lot have had enough and the worrying part is 18 months in to Erik ten Hag’s tenure, there are far too many games where it looks like there is no style of play.

It’s not possession-based, it’s not transition football.

Injuries have played a part, but he has worked with these players for over a year and they should be able to execute the basics of what he wants.

Maybe I’m delusional in thinking that getting the likes of Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro and Christian Eriksen back will provide the team with more stability, but I do think Erik deserves the opportunity to play his preferred XI for a few weeks and see what he had in store when he made the signings he did in the summer.

Sacking the manger mid-season and starting again without even finishing his rebuild seems pointless for a team who, let’s be honest, had no chance of winning the league this year and a top-four finish was the best people hoped for.

The FA Cup is achievable, and we can still finish in the top four.

 

Who has disappointed the most for United this season?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 26, 2023: Manchester United's goalkeeper André Onana during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Nottingham Forest FC at Old Trafford. Man Utd won 3-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Onana. I am firmly in the camp that David De Gea had to leave and to this day I stand by that.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Onana, as I feel his technique is poor and it makes the goals he concedes look a lot worse than they are.

But some of the mistakes are inexcusable at any level, let alone the top one.

There is still time to turn things around, and the amount of shots he has had to face are making things worse, but he needs a very strong second half of the season if he is to stand any chance of keeping his place in 2024.

 

Anyone been good?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 26, 2023: Manchester United's Alejandro Garnacho scores the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Manchester United FC at Goodison Park. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Alejandro Garnacho has had bright moments and Kobbie Mainoo has impressed when he’s been on the pitch.

I guess they have been good.

Prior to his last injury, Hojlund was very impressive in the Champions League and has been unlucky to not score in the Premier League.

With all the injuries, it has been hard for anyone to really play themselves into form.

Scott McTominay has not been good. His goals have not been worth the lack of passing, defending and anything else required in the midfield.

 

What’s one thing you’d change at the club?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, May 5, 2009: Manchester United's owners Avram (L), JJoel Glazer (C) and Bryan Glazer (R) during the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg match at the Emirates Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The owners. It’s always the owners. Them leaving will just lift the general mood of the club and fans.

That’s not to say the incoming Jim Ratcliffe is going to immediately change the fortunes of the club, but there is hope that the structural changes could make us less of a mess and a laughing stock.

 

What’s your take on VAR? In favour of it?

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - Thursday, November 9, 2023: VAR check to disallow Liverpool's equalising third goal during the UEFA Europa League Group E match-day 4 game between Toulouse FC and Liverpool FC at the Stadium de Toulouse. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I’m fine with VAR.

I have no issue with the technology, it’s the people using it that are the issue.

There are ways to clean up the process, but as long as you have humans in charge, there will always be mistakes.

 

Looking at Liverpool, how you do assess their title chances?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 9, 2023: Liverpool's match-winning goal-scorer Harvey Elliott celebrates with captain Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace FC and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. Liverpool won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool have a legitimate shot, regardless of how many fans play them down.

All they have to do is stay in the race heading into the final months and anything can happen.

The recent spate of injuries are a downer, but I expect the club and Jurgen Klopp to pick up enough points so that when the injured players are back they can kick on.

 

What do you think has changed with the Reds from last season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 2, 2023: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister (L) and Dominik Szoboszlai after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Having a midfield has helped. The the dropoff in form of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson did not help last season.

New players with fresh ideas come into the middle of the park seems to have revitalised the entire squad, including the manager.

Darwin Nunez seems to have kicked on slightly and Mohamed Salah looks back to his best. Trent Alexander-Arnold is stepping up as well, which has made a huge difference.

 

Where will the key battles take place on Sunday?

Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield on December 03, 2023 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

There are no key battles. United have no midfield, no defence and no attack. Liverpool can do what they want, when they want.

If you turn up, this shouldn’t be a contest.

 

Finally, what’s your prediction?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 9, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates at the final whistle after the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace FC and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. Liverpool won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A comfortable 4-0 win for Liverpool. That’s the minimum.