For many supporters Liverpool’s trip to Old Trafford is one of the biggest games of the season, with not just three points at stake but also North West bragging rights.
The media also jump on the bandwagon, after all the two clubs set to clash on Sunday have two of the biggest, if not the biggest, fan bases in English football.
The build-up is normally packed with stats, form and results checking in order to try and predict who is in the best shape going in to the fixture.
This season though, it’s all a bit different.
The honeymoon period is over for Roy Hodgson and after a run of uninspiring performances from the Reds the slight air of optimism surrounding his arrival at Anfield is all but gone.
As a group of supporters we could be accused of being slightly impatient this season. After a poor campaign last year it’s easy to see why supporters find it frustrating to see Liverpool start a season in such an unpromising way and ultimately the manager is going to be the one to take an ample amount of scrutiny.
Hodgson didn’t help himself after the game against Birmingham at St Andrew’s on Sunday. The Liverpool boss stated his pleasure at Liverpool’s performance against tough opposition after the Reds walked out, thanks to Pepe Reina, with one point.
The result was far from poor, Birmingham are an incredibly hard team to beat at home, as evidenced by their record of just under twenty unbeaten games at St Andrew’s, but the performance was another thing altogether.
Birmingham looked close to dominant against a Liverpool side that looked shaky at the back and completely lacked in creativity, with the two central midfielders rarely looking forward and the two wide players offering little other than the occasional run in to the box.
Gerrard tried his hardest but, after a string of solid performances, it was a bad day at the office for the skipper, whilst striker Fernando Torres was left isolated as the lone striker, feeding off scraps from an unimaginative midfield.
The script reads like one of our many poor away performances last season, the difference is after those games the manager never came out and praised the team for putting on an “entertaining” performance.
Look to next Sunday and you can see why a lot of that analysis mentioned earlier simply isn’t needed. A quick look at how both sides are playing could easily tell you that United should walk away with three points easy as that.
Both Cole and Meireles should be available to start on Sunday, whilst both will no doubt give a boost to Liverpool’s efforts going forward, they’re no miracle cure. Liverpool’s conservative mentality has to change if we’re to walk away from the game with even our pride intact.
The message needs to be conveyed that a performance like what was offered at Birmingham simply isn’t good enough. This is Liverpool Football Club and when travelling to teams who are supposedly worse than ourselves we shouldn’t be sitting back, hoping for the best and holding out for an “entertaining” nil-nil draw.
Will this happen? I doubt it. As much as I want to like Roy Hodgson it seems as though he’s set the bar a lot lower than what most Liverpool fans expected at the start of the season.
It’s never good to think you’re better than you are, but praising a poor performance makes the team think it’s acceptable, and if that mentality exists amongst the players the trip to Old Trafford could be a very depressing one.
(Photo provided by Mikhail Slain)