Thursday 17 January 2019

Richard Dunne: 'Man United will park the bus at Anfield and that approach will test Liverpool'

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Reuters
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

Everyone knows what to expect when Manchester United play Liverpool on Sunday: United will go to Anfield, park the bus and hope to come away with a point, no matter how bad the game or the football is.

They both went through in the Champions League in midweek but they had different experiences in their respective games and Liverpool are looking like the real deal right now.

The big thing with Liverpool is that they are solid defensively now, they don’t concede goals and they have a keeper who can get them out of a sticky situation.

We knew that as soon as their front players started firing again they would take off as a team. Now Mo Salah is finding his form again so if Sadio Mane can just start scoring, they will improve even more.

Liverpool will relish playing United right now as this is their chance to get a huge win over them. If you’re a Liverpool fan right now you’d be very confident, you’d see this as the chance to put one over on United. But reality means that United will do what they have done against Liverpool so often in the last few years: just destroy the game, kill the game on Sunday and be happy to leave with a point.

It’s unfortunate, as Liverpool v United should be a spectacle, something to look forward to. But with this United side, under this manager, there will only be one tactic on Sunday: don’t lose.

The last few times they have played each other, United just sat in to defend and the game passes them by, it’s over before you know it and ends a 0-0 draw. You’d hope that Liverpool can go and score early, make a game of it, make the match interesting at least.

So the challenge is for Liverpool to overcome that and they need their front three working hard to outwit United. They need to be patient as United will do all they can to stop Liverpool from playing.

Liverpool have so much energy about them but they need to use that in the right way, understand that it’s not all about running forward, it’s about trying to pull United out wide; trying to open up some gaps to get their players in to score.

You can gloss over the midweek games, especially with United as they knew they were through in the Champions League before they played Valencia but you’d still expect, and demand, more.

If you play for Man United you should never go out and feel you don’t really have to represent the club, you have to go and put in your best performance in every single game you play because you are at one of the biggest clubs in the world and you can’t decide to just not play as you have already qualified for the next round. You still have to perform.

I saw Pogba’s miss and some of the other things he did on Wednesday night and that sums up his season, lackadaisical, he didn’t seem to care.

When you play for the Red Devils United you have to try and win every game you play and they didn’t do that in midweek. They were second to everything, didn’t offer a threat, never looked like they wanted to win the game – a complete lack of enthusiasm to go and play.

Liverpool were different and I know they had to work hard for the win over Napoli but they got it, Alisson playing no small part.

The best thing that happened to him was that mistake he made against Leicester earlier this season. He said at the time, ‘this is how I play, I am a risk-taker’ but I think people at Liverpool took him aside and told him this was about trying to win the Premier League, not personal glory.

He has cut out the mistakes, he has improved his game, he clears the ball if there’s any doubt and, speaking as a defender, that’s what you want from your goalkeeper.

He’s also made important saves at vital moments. Jurgen Klopp has said he was value for money and they could have paid twice more for him but he has proven his worth.

As for the fixture, for supporters, the Liverpool-United game is always important in terms of pride and bragging rights but, with Manchester City losing last weekend, it’s vital for Liverpool to now go on a winning run.

The table is so tight at the top that you can’t afford slip-ups and you’d expect Liverpool to take a winning run into Christmas, before they play City in January.

Liverpool top the table and it’s a new experience for them to be the side that’s being chased, not the team doing the chasing, so can they be the team which goes on a run, a team that can win in difficult situations.

Sometimes when you are chasing a team above you, you have a bit more leeway but when you have the lead, the pressure is on you not to lose it, so Liverpool have to accept that responsibility now and push on, keep winning.

Every win that Liverpool can get on board before they play each other in the new year will be a little knock for City. So, if City come out of a game which they’ve won and they learn that Liverpool have also won that day, it’s a blow for City and adds to the pressure.

That’s why Sunday’s game at Anfield is so important for Liverpool. They will want to get one over on United due to the rivalry between them but if they are serious about winning the Premier League this season, beating United at home is something they have to aim for.

Doing it won’t be easy, as Jose Mourinho and United will do what we all expect on Sunday, they will be negative and come to grind out a draw. 

But it will be a proper test of whether Liverpool are good enough to be champions this season as they have to find a way past United.

Football needs to tackle gambling problems

Celtic played without Leigh Griffiths in their Europa League game last night as the club have given him time off to deal with reported gambling issues.

And football needs to own up to the fact that, as long as clubs accept sponsorship from betting companies, there will be a major problem there.

The FA fine and ban people like Joey Barton for gambling offences, while at the same time taking money from betting companies, and it makes no sense.

You can’t have a rule banning players from gambling while taking money from those betting companies, and the same goes for the clubs.

Either you support the players, or you take money from the gambling industry, but you can’t have it both ways and the FA, and the clubs, need to look for over avenues for income.

You can’t be sponsored by a tobacco company, rules on alcohol sponsorship are strict, but sponsorship by betting companies, something that can destroy families, is acceptable in football.

Leigh Griffiths is not the only one as I’ve seen some players who have a problem with gambling. I have been with players who were betting on American football and they didn’t even understand the rules. They just wanted to have a bet and win a few quid.

As a player you have a lot of spare time, on buses and in hotels and it’s easy to get the phone out and have a bet. I have seen players stick £50 on a match or a race and bet £50 more when they don’t win. I know people who were hooked on it. People are happy to tell you they won two grand, but they don’t tell you what they lost.

It needs to be talked about more as more and more players will have problems.

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