Does anyone enjoy these occasions? I don't think there are two hours I'm more miserable than these games. At that's in any sport. Every time United have possession I generally start shaking. Even when I wasn't a smoker I chained-smoked during these occasions. I long ago gave up trying to watch them in a public place because I couldn't guarantee I wouldn't drift a United supporter in the bar. And I'm not a violent person. The pints provided never calmed my nerves. Many times, I seriously consider just not watching and finding out the score later to relieve myself of the stress.
But I can't do that, because I can't miss the possible glory. I'm on a buzz for days when we win this fixture. And Liverpool need to win this Sunday.
Not because it's United. But in my mind, and it's probably a pipe dream anyway, the Reds need to run the table on the league games left to have any shout of getting to fourth. Certainly they can't drop points in more than two games, and they must beat City and Spurs at home. There's no other way. Even if the Pool did rattle off 30 of 30 points, City and Spurs would have to lose three games and draw another, and that's asking a lot. But stranger things have happened, right? And a great run to the end of the season would have us feeling sprightly about next season.
Both these teams could come in with a goofy to straight up Vaudevillian backline. We know about United problems, with Ferdinand and Vidic out, and possibly Evra as well. We know Wes Brown and Chris Smalling are going to be the central pairing, and while Smalling has a big future ahead of him, I'm still ringing the dinner bell. If John O'Shea continues at right back then it could really be a spit-roast, and I don't care about that nauseating winner at the Kop end a few years back. He's awful.
But Liverpool could be without Aurelio and Agger, and we know Kelly is out. Then again, they could have them both back, and Johnson-Agger-Skrtel-Aurelio is just fine with me. The way Carragher was ragdolled by Berbatov in the fixture at OT just leaves me not wanting to see him on the pitch. But he probably will, especially since Berba has found himself on the bench most matches behind Rooney on his own or Rooney and Hernandez. But Ferguson can throw a curveball at any time, so who knows?
To me, as I said before, if Gerrard and Meireles is fit (don't know about that, though one imagines you'd have to sever a couple limbs to keep Stevie from this) then Liverpool run this show in midfield. Darren Fletcher is a nice player, but nothing other worldly. And if Ferguson goes with the 4-4-2 he did against Chelsea, Fletcher gets shunted out to the right. Paul Scholes is finished, and I don't know why more people don't know this, and Michael Carrick is an abortion. Our troika of Lucas-Gerrard-Meireles should be bringing a heavy pimp hand.
It's on the flanks where United terrify me. Nani, when he's not being a total bitch and writhing on the floor for half the match, is one of the bigger threats around. Ryan Giggs still gets it done, though not as much from the wide areas these days, won't be shocked if he starts in the middle of a midfield five for that. If Evra is fit he gets forward too, as can Rafael if he's the right back. Expect Kuyt to follow Nani around to help out whatever fullback is out there.
This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this...