‘Red Devils’ boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and ‘Reds’ chief Jurgen Klopp will have a second go at each other, this time in a different competition and at a different venue.
Ahead of the FA Cup fourth round clash between host United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday, former England and ‘Reds’ goalkeeper David James spoke to DT Next about the knockout fixture and more.
Liverpool has been dreadful in the final third of the pitch in recent times, while Manchester United has improved its defence significantly in the past one month. So, how do you see the all-important FA Cup tie shaping up?
Liverpool failed to score in its last four games. And of late, it has unfortunately come up against goalkeepers who are in good form Nick Pope (Burnley), Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion) and Karl Darlow (Newcastle United). The match against Southampton was the only exception. The performance was pretty poor. Despite not picking up wins, Liverpool is creating chances. If that had been a problem, I would have termed United as the favourite. When United and Liverpool come up against each other in the FA Cup, the home team usually wins. Considering the last Premier League meeting between the two sides, I feel that the contest would be a tight one.
Both clubs are fighting for top honours in the Premier League, with Manchester United currently leading the pack. But, how ambitious do you think the teams are about winning the FA Cup this season?
Liverpool is still the champion of the World Club Cup and the Premier League. The league title has to be its priority, having won some silverware in the last two years. But, Ole needs to win something. The question marks on Ole have been there from the beginning. He has to win something to prove his managerial credentials. As for Klopp, I can’t see any reason why he would put a weakened side against United. The pressure on Liverpool is intense even though it is in the Premier League title race. But, the FA Cup is slightly different for Klopp when compared to Ole.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United has done well in patches in Cup competitions but has failed to go the distance. What would you put it down to?
There is so much ability in that team, but United doesn’t show it as a unit regularly enough. It can destroy the opponent on one day and underperform on the other. That is what frustrates fans. When you keep midfielders Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba quiet, United’s supply chain is cut. That is what Manchester City did in the League Cup semi-finals.
Manchester United has two top-notch goalkeepers in David de Gea and Dean Henderson in its ranks. While de Gea has been first choice for Premier League and European club competition matches, Henderson has been given the nod in domestic Cup games. Your thoughts on how Ole is handling the tricky situation?
Henderson is definitely one for the future. But, I can’t give you a timeframe. Henderson has done some good things, but he isn’t the best goalkeeper this season. Ole is doing the right thing by having de Gea as his No.1. However, de Gea isn’t performing at the level he once did. The transition will happen, but Ole has got the balance right so far.
(Watch FA Cup matches LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on Sony Ten 2 channel)