Cleverley returns for Liverpool tie

Tom Cleverley returns to the Manchester United squad as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side takes on Liverpool for the third time this season. United face the Merseysiders just a fortnight after losing in an FA Cup fourth round tie at Anfield, but midfielder Cleverley’s return provides a timely boost in United’s pursuit of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table. Cleverley has not featured since October, and not completed a match since the Reds beat Arsenal 8-2 in August, but is likely to make the bench for the Saturday lunchtime tie at Old Trafford.

England international Cleverley adds additional midfield creativity to a United side that came back from three goals down at Stamford Bridge last weekend, but slipped two points behind City in the title race. Ferguson will also be able to call upon defender Chris Smalling, but Phil Jones is unlikely to feature until next week’s Europa League fixture against Ajax.

But United appears to have come through one of the worst injury crisis during Ferguson’s 25 year tenure at Old Trafford, with up to 11 players missing at any one time through the autumn and winter. Indeed, winger Nani remains on the sidelines, while the long-term injured, including Anderson, Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Vidić will not feature.

“Tom’s training well. We were disappointed the Chelsea Reserves game was called off on Monday,” said Ferguson on Friday.

“The plan was for him to stay over with us [after last Sunday's game at Stamford Bridge] and play in the game on the Monday. That was called off. But he’s trained very well and he’ll be involved tomorrow.

“There’s not much change on the injury front for us. I think Smalling could be available, but all the rest is as it was last Sunday. Phil Jones got a knock against Manchester City, which he never quite recovered from. He’ll be fit for next week. He’ll be fit for the Ajax game.”

Manchester United versus Liverpool, Premier League, Old Trafford, 11 February 2012, 12.45pm. If Cleverley’s return does not add enough spice to the fixture, then Luis Suárez’ first appearance at Old Trafford since completing an eight match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra certainly does. With the United captain suffering consistent abuse at Anfield a fortnight ago, the Uruguayan striker is likely to receive a typically warm Manchester welcome.

However, Sir Alex believes that the debate about the potential handshake between Evra and Suárez is irrelevant, although the media is likely to focus on the moment during the pre-match rituals. Instead, Ferguson chose to concentrate on the lax defending that cost his side three goals at Stamford Bridge and defeat against Liverpool in the cup.

“I think our performance levels in the last few weeks have been good, but we’re losing goals in important games and that’s a bit of a concern,” the 70-year-old manager added.

“Last week, Juan Mata’s goal was a fantastic strike – we couldn’t do a thing about that – but an own goal and a deflected goal… we should do better. We lost two soft goals against Liverpool in the FA Cup and that shouldn’t be happening at our club. We expect a hard game tomorrow but I’m just looking for the sort of performance we’ve been showing recently. That should help us.”

Injuries to each of Ferguson’s back four, save for Evra, has certainly not helped. Indeed, the French defender’s poor form in recent matches can, in part, be attributed to potential burn-out – Evra has featured in more games than any other United player this season. Evra’s ongoing form has United fans debating the Frenchman’s future despite the manager’s persistent faith.

One man for whom there is little debate is Ryan Giggs, with the 38-year-old midfielder signing a one year contract extension on Friday. The Welshman will be just months short of his 40th birthday by the time the new deal expires in summer 2013. And Giggs will compete with another veteran, Paul Scholes, for a place in United’s starting 11 along with Michael Carrick.

Elsewhere, Ferguson will pick between Smalling and in-form Rafael da Silva at right-back, while Javier Hernández and Danny Welbeck are competing for a place in attack. Ashley Young could retain his place despite the below par performance at Stamford Bridge last weekend.

“It is brilliant for him, the club and the fans that somebody of his calibre is going to continue at his age,” said Young of Giggs’ new deal.

“He has been brilliant throughout the years that he has played and is somebody that I admire and look up to. Obviously players like Giggs and Scholes have experience from their many years at the club and when they talk, you listen because they have been there and done it. They have won so many titles and medals and have achieved so much in their careers. If I can achieve part of that I’ll be thrilled. I’d say I’m an experienced player at 26 but I still listen to the seniors and want to improve.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish must decide whether to include Suárez in his starting side. The striker came off the bench during Liverpool’s draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Monday. However, Andy Carroll caused goalkeeper David de Gea significant problems at Anfield, with the young Spaniard struggling to cope with Liverpool’s direct, physical, approach. Jose Enrique could play missing the scoreless draw with Spurs though injury.

United has won six of the last seven league meetings between the sides at Old Trafford – the exception was Liverpool’s 4-1 win in March 2009. And the Reds home form is nothing like last season’s, with Ferguson’s side dropping eight points at Old Trafford already. By the same stage last year, United had dropped just two points.

Ferguson knows that there is little room for manoeuver, especially with City facing a comfortable looking run of fixtures before ‘squeaky bum time’ kicks in during the spring!

Match details
Manchester United versus Liverpool, Premier League, Old Trafford, 11 February 2012, 12.45pm.

Potential Line-ups
United (4-4-1-1): de Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Scholes, Carrick, Young; Rooney; Hernández. Subs from: Amos, Kuszazck, Smalling, Fryers, Cleverley, Cole, Giggs, Park, Pogba, Welbeck, Berbatov.

Liverpool (4-5-1): Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Kuyt, Gerrard, Spearing, Adam, Downing; Suárez. Subs from: Doni, Aurelio, Coates, Carragher, Henderson, Carroll, Bellamy.

Stats

  • United provided one of the games of the season against Chelsea on Sunday, coming back from 3-0 down to secure a 3-3 draw and stay in the title race;
  • Michael Carrick covered the most ground in that game for the third Premier League game in a row, with 6.68 miles;
  • Patrice Evra has covered the most ground in total this season with 131.2 miles;
  • Two penalties from Wayne Rooney and a header from Javier Hernández brought United back into the game. Rooney’s goals were his 14th and 15th of the season, and have come from 87 shots at goal with 64 per cent on target;
  • David De Gea has been heavily criticised this season, but the young goalkeeper pulled off two sensational saves to keep United in the game against Chelsea. The Spaniard has made 97 saves this season, averaging 6.5 per game. That’s the fourth highest average in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index;
  • Meanwhile, Liverpool welcomed back Luis Suárez against Spurs on Monday, but the Uruguay striker could not break the deadlock as Liverpool were held to a scoreless draw;
  • Charlie Adam covered the most ground for Liverpool against Spurs with 6.83 miles, and has covered 141.3 miles in total this season for Liverpool (the most of any Liverpool player);
  • Andy Carroll has been credited with improved form in Suárez’s absence. The former Newcastle United striker has averaged 4.8 miles in each of his Premier League games without the Uruguayan – his average across the season is just 3.8 miles per game;
  • Suárez has made 76 efforts at goal this season with 53 per cent on target, while Carroll has had 50 with exactly half on target;
  • Suárez has averaged a shot at goal every 22 minutes, while Carroll has had an effort every 28 minutes this season.

Form
United: WWWLWD
Liverpool: DLDWWD

Officials
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
Assistants: S Bennett, A Garratt
Fourth Official: A Taylor

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Comments

  1. Sidsidney says

    They’re a bit good away from home and they’ll test De Gea like they did at Anfield

    And Evra will get done a couple of times

    But if we start quick we’ll be 2-0 up by half time no worries

    And if the opportunity arises to go through the back of Suarez – and it probably will because he’ll be involved in something – then the opportunity must be taken otherwise I’ll be forever haunted by a sense of injustice

  2. Sidsidney says

    Fergie stokes the fire http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/feb/10/liverpool-luis-suarez-sir-alex-ferguson

    In response to Dalglish saying that Suarez should never have been banned in the first place, Fergie said: “Well, why didn’t they appeal? I think we would be better putting that to bed. We have plenty of other important issues to be concentrating on, like chasing City in the league and preparing for the Europa League games.”

    He also said: “We’ll just get on with the job and concentrate on the game. They [Liverpool] have said plenty, haven’t they? But we’ve kept our own counsel, because we thought that was the right thing to do in these situations.”

  3. kramer says

    aaargh, i hope we don’t fucking lose this. the loss at klanfield was bad enough, what was worse was the fucking camera panning to kenny and suarez as though it was some sort of absolution from the evra incident or something. couldn’t stand suarez celebrating again. its been a while since i hated a player so much.

  4. kramer says

    we’re just better than them. if we keep our heads and don’t make too many mistakes in defence, we should win it. the only problem i can think of is having to play ashley young.

  5. han says

    defence is definitely a weakness
    rio needs to really start focusing on the nasty stuff instead of trying to look pretty on the ball
    even berbs in defence is an option

  6. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Wow… the average age of our starting midfield today is over 32.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  7. Snoopcousins says

    Suarez scum
    Daglish scum
    Liverpool scum

    Never wanted us to win so much and one of their players not to score so much!
    He’s their new Fowler

  8. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    han said:
    not only is he an ugly fuck and a racist cunt, but now he prefers to play the victim

    Rio wouldn’t shake his hand after he wouldn’t shake evra’s,
    what a prat of a bloke suarez is, makes liverpool look more like racists every day.

  9. Sidsidney says

    Best chant of the day so far

    “It’s never your fault, it’s never your fault
    Always the victims, it’s never your fault”

  10. kramer says

    we’re far the better team, really should win this if we don’t fuck up. rio keeps getting exposed for pace, but hopefully we’ll get through that okay.
    welbeck is a fucking monster – he’s been fantastic at almost everything.

  11. DamnedUnited says

    If United weren’t acting like pussies in the buildup to both games, Suarez and Dalglish wouldn’t have the guts to act like they have. There’s not point in acting gentlemanly with thugs.

    Instead, Ser Fergie doesn’t act like he cares about the slight to his player. FA’s instructions to stay quiet seem to have taken more importance.

    The club have stayed silent, not publicly backing Evra and have let the supporters do their talking for them and this apathy has translated onto the pitch. I won’t be surprised if Evra feels let down after how hard he has worked for the team.

    Anyway, all possession and pretty passing but lacking killer instincts in the final third.

  12. kramer says

    i can’t believe the fucking analysis on the handshake here – “evra robbed suarez of his livelihood by getting him banned for 8 games, and trying to shake suarezs hand after that is rubbing salt into it”

    what a fucking cunt steve mcmahon is, i don’t think he even understands the gravity of the situation

  13. Sidsidney says

    kramer said:
    i can’t believe the fucking analysis on the handshake here – “evra robbed suarez of his livelihood by getting him banned for 8 games, and trying to shake suarezs hand after that is rubbing salt into it”

    what a fucking cunt steve mcmahon is, i don’t think he even understands the gravity of the situation

    That’s fucking unbelievable

  14. bman says

    kramer said:
    i can’t believe the fucking analysis on the handshake here – “evra robbed suarez of his livelihood by getting him banned for 8 games, and trying to shake suarezs hand after that is rubbing salt into it”

    what a fucking cunt steve mcmahon is, i don’t think he even understands the gravity of the situation

    Yeah, and then he’s saying “what’s Ferdinand getting involved for?” what a count,

    hang on — Rooooooooooooooooooo twooooooooooo

  15. RedDevilFan says

    Just want to say as a fan from the US love reading your site especially the game commentary. My favorite United site on the web

  16. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Liverpool were done… no chance at all… and then that happens…

    Now we’ll be shitting it for the rest of the game.

    FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. han says

    that win was all important
    scouse fuckers not even in the game for 80 mins and then we gift them that goal to make it a nerve racking, arse clenching final 17 minutes inc stoppage time.

  18. Sidsidney says

    Dalglish is sulking, he won’t come out of the dressing room

    He did one interview and most of the questions were about Suarez not shaking hands with Evra, so now it looks like he’s refusing to do anymore

  19. Sidsidney says

    He says it’s not Suarez’s fault for not shaking hands with Evra
    FFS
    He blames the atmosphere… which he fucking created! Even the BBC commentator just said that

  20. DamnedUnited says

    LOL, Redknapp saying Evra should have taken the high moral ground by not celebrating in front of Suarez but says its ok for Suarez not to shake Evra’s hand.

    LOL, the biggest crowd inciter is sitting in the Sky studios.

  21. squigs says

    We all dislike him but Terry wouldn’t have ever refused to shake Anton Ferdinand’s hand in a corresponding fixture between QPR and Chelsea. Suarez simply disgraceful.

  22. kramer says

    squigs said:
    We all dislike him but Terry wouldn’t have ever refused to shake Anton Ferdinand’s hand in a corresponding fixture between QPR and Chelsea. Suarez simply disgraceful.

    totally agreed. suarez is a whole new level of cunt

  23. Dinkinflicker says

    Fuckng loved it,. Watched it in the local boozer. A few dippers there. Some mither, though to be fair I contributed substantially. Is there a bigger bunch of fuckwits than those scousers cunts?

  24. Sidsidney says

    Eboue: “I apologise for calling you Loserpool. But we have to kick racism out of football. You can‘t support Suarez”
    Not sure if that’s real, but it’s WUMmed the scouse

  25. Dinkinflicker says

    Fuckng loved it,. Watched it in the local boozer. A few dippers there. Some mither, though to be fair I contributed substantially. Is there a bigger bunch of fuckwits than those scousers cunts?

  26. sheesh says

    I know we won 2-1 but I am not at all happy with the level of performance today. Apart from that spell where we scored twice, I thought we showed a lack of urgency to get the ball moving and get it forward, a lack of tempo and a lack of ideas up front when the ball was there in the final third. I thought we were very sloppy at times with the way we conceded possession. The Scousers should have been thrashed out of sight, they are so shit. In the end, our sloppiness could have cost us the win after Liverpool showed a bit more fight at 2-1.

    What really pisses me off is that we still well behind on goal difference. We should be looking to score more goals but there was no sense that we were looking to score more than we needed to to win the game. It was safety first, negative bollocks.

    As for Suarez, and I’m not normally one to wish ill on anyone, I hope someone snaps his legs like twigs ending his career in one fell swoop. He doesn’t deserve the gift of being a professional footballer. He is a subhuman individual, complete and utter scum.

  27. sheesh says

    bman said:
    What did Grand Wizard Dalglish say?

    He threw a strop when Sky interviewed him, apparently, as he didn’t like the line of questioning re Suarez. That’s what they said on 5 Live, anyway.
    Apparently, Fergie said in his post-match interview that Suarez is a disgrace to Liverpool FC and should be kicked out.
    Edit – Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson on Luis Suarez’s decision not to shake Patrice Evra’s hand before kick-off, and Evra’s celebrations at full-time following United’s win:
    “I couldn’t believe Suarez refused Evra’s handshake. Suarez is a disgrace to Liverpool football club. He should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again, the history of that club. He could have caused a riot. Racism is an important issue and football has come a long way since the days of bananas being thrown at John Barnes. Evra shouldn’t have jumped in front of Suarez in celebration at the end. He shouldn’t have done that.”
    http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid761333525001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAAAAnV5Z0~,xyoxShbYDLGSh2yu4XruBQh1N8XmHpc9&bctid=1446829094001

  28. shauno says

    Word from the Liverpool camp it was Evra’s fault that Suarez didn’t shake his hand as Evra pulled his hand away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2-1 top of the league!

    More importantly all these “tough fixtures” whereby we are supposed to drop loads of points we keep getting results. Win at Spurs and the pressure significantly builds on CIty as they start to have a few tricky fixtures. If we are within 4 points after the spurs game we will win it.

  29. baloobaloo says

    I’ve got to say that I genuinely believe that Dogleash didn’t know that he’d taken his hand away, judging by his reaction, meaning that he’ll proper lay into him – if he’s got any balls anyway.

    He is a proper snidy cunt that Suarez – a truly hateful individual.

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