But anyone believing the Special One will send out a side for 90 minutes shooting practice against a defence with more holes than OJ Simpson’s alibi needs a spell in a padded room
A YEAR ago Jose Mourinho stepped into Anfield with two goals – stop the rot and stop the Liverpool express.
And, as ever when Mourinho sets up a team specifically not to lose rather than chasing a win, he managed it.
But for the Special One it was mission accomplished. Shutting out a side which had won six of its previous seven, scored 22 and conceded just five.
This time he will lead Manchester United into battle with the boot firmly on the other foot, his own team having won six of seven, and still unbeaten.
Now people are licking their lips at the thought of a gung-ho, end-to-end thriller to light up the Premier League. My message to those thinking such? Get real.
Anyone believing he will send out a side that’ll flood forward, pin Liverpool back and have 90 minutes shooting practice against a defence with more holes than OJ Simpson’s alibi needs a spell in a padded room.
Yes, this United is far, far stronger than the last to visit Merseyside. There will probably be six different starters to last October.
Romelu Lukaku – 11 United goals already – Nemanja Matic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Phil Jones are all likely to be in.
But while Mourinho will go for it when the opponent allows – all that “he’s a boring, 1-0 manager” is just garbage – he is also first and foremost a pragmatist.
He knows Liverpool will tear out of the blocks, go hell for leather, and take the fight to United – even without the crocked Sadio Mane.
Backed by a roaring Kop, they’ll fancy their chances too, as league positions count for nowt in this.
After all, United’s whole season in the 1980s used to be based on a decent cup run and beating the Scousers in the league.
Mourinho will set up his side primarily not to concede. To take the sting out of their rivals, to let them blow themselves out.
Then – and only then, when the opportunity arises – will he aim to hit them on the counter.
Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United : Tense stalemate at Anfield