Kenny Dalglish will sit in the opposition dugout for Liverpool’s trip to Old Trafford on Sunday, with the visitors having sacked Roy Hodgson. The 59-year-old Scot will take charge of Liverpool for the first time in 20 years, and more than a decade since his last serious job. Whether the move will inspire a hopeless Liverpool outfit is another question.
That Liverpool chose to sack Hodgson little more than 24 hours before a key fixture says much for the new management installed at Anfield. NESV’s appointment of a man with no taste of success in 15 years is perhaps even more telling. Indeed, since Dalslish’s last silverware, Ferguson has secured two European Cups, the Premier League on nine occasions, together with three FA Cups, among other trophies.
No friend of Dalglish, Sir Alex Ferguson will certainly relish the chance to put one over an old adversary in tomorrow lunchtime’s FA Cup third round tie. With a promise to pick a strong side – having been embarrassed by Leeds United at the same stage last season – Ferguson hopes to profit from the chaos down the East Lancs Road.
“The FA Cup is a tournament you can never be sure about,” Ferguson said.
“We made a mistake last year of picking a team that we thought would be good enough to beat Leeds. We had a reminder that the FA Cup has shocks in it. We had one last year and we hope we don’t get it this year.
“I think I picked the wrong team last year. In hindsight I could have picked a stronger team. I won’t be making that mistake this time. Hopefully I don’t pick the wrong team this time.
“It’s a tournament which you can’t take for granted. We did last year and we got a reminder. It’s the first time I’d lost a first-round tie since I came to the club. It didn’t sit well with me. I was sick for a few days, I didn’t enjoy it.”
Despite the promise, Ferguson could be without Edwin van der Sar, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes and John O’Shea for the tie. van der Sar sat out United’s last two matches but will only return if he recovers from a bout of flu. Meanwhile, Rooney has a sore ankle and will face a late fitness tests before any involvement is confirmed. Scholes and O’Shea miss out once again.
Not that Ferguson will be unduly concern by Liverpool’s form, with the visitors lying 11 places behind United in the Premier League and having one just once in the last five. The side’s thrashing at Blackburn Rovers last week proved the final straw for Hodgson.
Nor does Dalglish’s side have any kind of record at Old Trafford, having lost six of the last seven matches played at Old Trafford, including a 3-2 defeat in September.
Yet history says the game will have an edge the team’s respective league positions does not merit. Indeed, with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres little short of abysmal this season, it will be no surprise if the pair finally adds the effort to undoubted talent tomorrow. Such is the hand Hodgson was given during an ill-fated six months on Merseyside.
“It’s the history between the two teams,” said United legend Ryan Giggs of the teams rivalry.
“When I was growing up Liverpool were winning everything. Obviously in the last fifteen years we’ve been winning the majority of leagues and cups. There’s that history and rivalry – both great teams with great traditions.
Indeed, Giggs adds that the FA Cup may prove a welcome relief for a Liverpool side that lies just five points off bottom.
“Form goes out the window when you are playing in the FA Cup,” Giggs told ITV.
“Liverpool probably see it as a break from the league, a break from the pressures of their league form at the moment and a chance to get their season back on track.
“They’ve got world class players, they’ve got Gerrard, Torres, Pepe Reina in the team – all world class players. So, when you’re up against a team with players like that then you don’t take any team lightly.”
Still, the Welshman, who may sit out tomorrow’s game having played against West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City, will surely be deeply disappointed should United not comfortably progress tomorrow. Moreover, having not won the trophy since 2004, the Reds might just fancy a shot at the 139-year-old cup this year.
Liverpool – 451 – Reina; G Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Konchesky; Kuyt, Lucas, Poulsen, Cole; Gerrard; Torres. Subs from: Maxi, Ngog, Babel, Gulacsi, Kelly, Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos, Meireles, Aurelio, Pacheco, Wilson, Carragher, Spearing.
United – 442 – van der Sar; Rafael da Silva, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Anderson, Obertan; Berbatov, Rooney. Subs from: Kuzszazk, Amos, Evans, Fabio, Brown, Smalling, arrick, Gibson, Macheda, Owen, Bébé, Obertan, Hernández
Referee: Howard Webb
Assistant referees: Peter Kirkup & Andy Garratt
Fourth official: Andre Marrinner
United – DWWDWW
Liverpool – WLDLWL