Liverpool vs. Manchester United Preview: Time to Talk About Facts

Ben Johnston@FiveCantonasCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2011

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 06:   Luis Suarez of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on March 6, 2011 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Ever since Rafa went into meltdown and began ranting incoherently about fixtures, Mr Ferguson and “facts,” Liverpool fans have enjoyed repeating various facts to us in the hope that some will begin to be true. You know the ones I mean. The one about the way we’ve bought all our glory, the one about how nobody from Manchester supports United and the one about how they’ve won five European Cups?

“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please,” Mark Twain said in a conversation with Rudyard Kipling at the dawn on the 20th century. Here we are 100 years on and, given the bollocks Liverpool fans parrot at us, it rings as true as ever. 

Of course, if Rafa wanted to talk about facts, then he’d be interested to know that, since 2000, Liverpool’s net transfer expenditure is greater than Manchester United’s. Factor in wages, and it’s only £5 million more. In fact, Manchester United have spent less and recouped more than Liverpool, and yet we have enjoyed success that they, in their modern incarnation, can only dream of.

All that money bollocks doesn’t really mean anything if there’s no success to talk of. You want success? United deliver success. That’s a fact.

Liverpool fans like to wave their five European Cups around like a huge phallus, but the reality of the situation is that, besides one isolated period of sustained success in their history, Liverpool are very good also-rans.

Liverpool picked up their first four European Cups within seven years of each other (1977-1984) and probably wouldn’t have won in 2005 if Milan hadn’t spent halftime drinking champagne and bumming each other. If they fail to win the title this year, it will have been 22 years since they lifted the league title. Since then it’s been won by Arsenal, Leeds, Manchester United, Blackburn and Chelsea.

Manchester United’s three European Cups came with three completely different teams. The 1968 crowd, 1999 crowd and 2008 crowd were three separate pinnacles, the latter two trophies won in an era when being champions of Europe involved navigating a tricky group stage instead of beating Shelbourne or the like 12-0.

Needless to say, we go into the game this weekend as favourites. With Wayne Rooney making headlines again after having been handed a three-match ban for the Euros next summer, he’s going to be in the mood for cracking some skulls. This could go either way, because when Wayne is pissed off he’s either brilliant or shockingly bad. We have to pick him, because he could win the game on his own.

How we set up depends somewhat on the fitness of Tom Cleverley. Unfortunately, the game might have come a little too soon for him, and it would probably be disingenuous to throw him back in at Anfield anyway. Better news is that Fletcher managed a good stint against Spain. We’ll probably see a midfield of him and Anderson (who needs to shape up) flanked by Nani and Young. We need to attack at Anfield.

Do we then pick Welbeck or Hernandez? That one could go either way, given that both have had stop-start seasons thus far, but I’d go with Hernandez as the proven scorer.

We’re blessed with the return of Vidic at the back, fresh from his international failure in midweek. The question that remains is whether Rio starts or not. We’re going to need Smalling or Jones at right-back with Rafael out (and Valencia not up to it defensively), so it’s a straight fight between one of those two and Rio for the other slot. The vulnerable Evra will start at left-back, and DDG will play in nets.

Of course, Fergie might choose to go with the experience of Ferdinand, and you never quite know when he’s going to toss us a wildcard up front—we might even see Owen and Berbatov for at least part of the game.

I’d be happy with a point here, if I’m honest. They have crushed us at Anfield on a couple of occasions recently, most notably last season when it seriously undermined our strong start. In fact, we haven’t won there in the league since 2007, and have lost the last three.

Of course, before that match, you had to go back to 2001 for the last time Liverpool had beaten us at Anfield in the league. Oh, we’ve had some fun there (apologies for including the Argie Troll’s goal, but it was good at the time…).

The upshot of all of this is that City, continuing their hilariously simple start to the season, are home to Aston Villa, so we’ll probably have to put up with gloating empty blue seats. Oh well. When they start to play proper teams, they’ll get their comeuppance.