Liverpool’s momentum can carry them past old rivals Manchester United into the Premier League’s top four for the first time this season on Sunday, former winger Steve McManaman says.
The Anfield clash between England’s two most decorated clubs has taken on added significance this time, not because they are fighting for another title, but because the prospect of finishing outside the top four is so unpalatable.
Louis van Gaal’s United are in fourth spot with 56 points from 29 games, two ahead of in-form Liverpool who will be looking for a sixth successive league win.
“This is a huge game psychologically because if Liverpool win they would go into the top four and United would go out of the top four,” McManaman, who made 272 league appearances for Liverpool before moving to Real Madrid, told Reuters.
“It’s a monumental game. Even if they were 10th and 11th it’s huge because in my opinion these are the two biggest clubs in England, but with what’s at stake it adds to the tension.”
While United played some of their best football of the season when beating Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 last weekend, McManaman says Liverpool are the team on the move.
“They are coming into form at just the right time,” the 43-year-old, speaking at an event in London’s West End involving Brazil great Pele organised by the Subway sandwich chain, said.
“They have an abundance of young players who are growing in confidence the more they settle in there is an enthusiasm and absence of negativity or negative stories coming out.
“Everything is very positive. It’s fantastic for (manager) Brendan Rodgers, (coach) Mike Marsh and (assistant boss) Colin Pascoe. They were criticised in October and November but it was a case of patience, patience, patience.”
McManaman won only two trophies with Liverpool but the high point of his career was to come in 2000 with Real when he scored a sumptuous volley in the 3-0 Champions League final defeat of Valencia at the Stade de France.
While admitting Liverpool’s group stage exit on their return to the competition after a five-year absence was “disappointing”, McManaman said the important thing was for the club to become regulars again with the elite.
“I said in August that a top-four place would be brilliant because it was always going to be tough combining the Champions League,” he said.
“The Champions League run was disappointing, everyone knows that, but I think with a bit more experience it will help. They need to stay in the Champions League year after year and they will improve and come to the fore again.
“It’s one thing getting back into the Champions League but the following year is what is important. That’s why you have to say ‘well done’ to the likes of Arsenal, they’re so consistent.
“Mr. Wenger certainly deserves a pat on the back for that.”