We'll be league leaders when we visit Liverpool at Anfield, say hopeful Manchester United fans
Manchester United fan Stephen Francis loves annoying the hell out of Liverpool fans all over the world, especially those nearest to him.
And the musician-turned-chef who supported Manchester City, Burnley, Watford, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester City and just about any side that would take a couple of points or three off Liverpool last season is relishing the fact that his favourite team is so near to their great rivals and finally fighting the champions for top spot this season.
“The ecstasy is once back again; it’s as though Sir Alex Ferguson never left – banging in injury time goals, coming from behind and winning, and…well...just winning,” he explains gleefully. He realises there are real challenges, though, but that will do nothing to wipe the grin off his face. At least not yet.
“We don’t have any solid ground to say that the title is ours just yet, but It feels great to be a United fan now. After seven to eight years, the familiar feeling is back,” he adds, still grinning.
WATCH: Solskjaer discusses Cavani's return and EPL title race
The United fan who spent very little time actually supporting his own team last season now hopes the Red Devils will claim at least a point in their away match early tomorrow (SGT) against Burnley, especially since winning or getting a draw would mean United will be top of the table when they visit Anfield on Monday morning (SGT). And he’s confident his team will do just that, considering their excellent away form.
“United away to any team – I have no worries,” he says. But of course, Burnley would be a small matter considering the main event for United this week would be the clash at Anfield.
“So, Liverpool better be at their best! Our away form – unlike Liverpool’s – is impeccable. But then again, you never know with football these days,” he concedes. Stephen is well aware that the fixture overload could have a big effect on the outcome of the clash, plus the fact that Liverpool will have rested for nine whole days before hosting the Red Devils.
“The United v Liverpool rivalry has no doubt lost some of its ferocity over the last few years. But with both teams now fighting for the top spot, the fierce rivalry should return. And may I remind Liverpool fans that by the time United visit Anfield on Monday morning, we will be the league leaders, haha!” he says confidently, with an enormous grin on his face.
“Going to Anfield is always an exciting prospect. Liverpool have a weaker squad due to their current injury problems and United definitely have an edge playing away. But of course, Liverpool fans will keep reminding us to consider the fact that their team have not lost at Anfield since God knows when,” he says. “However, all winning streaks must come to an end, and I am confident that Manchester Unite will do the job of finally beating Liverpool at home.
“So look out! We’re coming! I’ll take Manchester United to win by 5-2!” he predicts, with a very large grin on his face.
WATCH: Klopp compares Liverpool's penalty record to Man United's
Not quite so confident but no less elated at his team’s current position is Benjamin Chan, who admits that he is a little bit uneasy over how things might turn out after the weekend’s round of matches.
“I feel that it is a great position for United to be in – joint leaders in the English Premier League and with one match in hand – but I still feel very uneasy about it,” he says. “Despite the improvements in play and the run we are on at the moment (except the defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup), United still do not look very convincing. I think we are still depending a lot on counter attacks and moments of magic from individual players. We are still not dominating matches by creating a lot of chances and pinning the opponents back, which is why I can’t feel completely at ease, despite United’s position so close to the top.”
Nevertheless, he believes that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will deliver the goods to put them top of the table when the Red Devils make the trip to Merseyside.
“I’m still worried that we have not been creating enough chances, but when it comes to Burnley, I fully expect them to hand us possession and sit deep to defend.
“On a positive note, Edinson Cavani will be back from suspension and I think that will enhance our chances of winning. I imagine the scoreline will be tight with United winning by a slim margin,” says Benjamin, not smiling or grinning at all. But he remains optimistic for the clash against Liverpool, even daring to predict a win for Manchester United.
“The match against Liverpool at Anfield will be tricky,” he says. “I hope we will bring our ‘A’ game to Liverpool at Anfield, especially with quite a few of their key players out, notably in defence. I think Liverpool may play a bit more defensively to provide more cover for their makeshift backline and that is where I think United can try and take advantage. United will have a decent shot at this match but they really need every player to turn up. I'd say United to win by a goal,” he adds.
However, Benjamin’s confidence in his team does not extend to their winning the league. There is a worry on his part that any title hope will be scuppered should their talismanic Bruno Fernandes be rendered ineffective on account of fatigue or injury.
WATCH: Bruno Fernandes feels honoured to captain Man United
“A tired or injured Bruno (later in the season) will take us back to square one. He is the catalyst in the team now and responsible largely for how the team performs. He hasn’t had much rest at all and there is currently no one available who is capable of doing what he does.
“I can just imagine United going through a bad run if Bruno is unable to perform at his peak,” admits Benjamin grimly.
Benjamin’s pal and fellow United fan Hunter Yap agrees with him on the matter of their team being overly dependent on Bruno.
“Right now, I can say we are a surprise title contender, but make no mistake about it, we are not favourites to win the title – just look at our performance against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-finals,” he says of the reality check that also denied his team a chance at a trophy.
“Manchester United need to improve even further. We cannot remain just a one-man team. That said, I think it is possible for United to pip Liverpool to the title, but not likely. Solskjaer is still very partial to certain players when it comes to team selection, and that is a problem.”
The United fan, however, has faith that his side will go top by sunrise tomorrow morning to arrive at Anfield as Premier League leaders.
WATCH: Liverpool icons Rush, Fowler and Case talk about how it's like to play Man United
“Yes, I believe United will win at Burnley to go top tomorrow. But this weekend, anything is possible, and I am not calling United the favourites at Anfield,” says Hunter.
However, he is not giving up hope either in his team for what to him is the season’s biggest fixture.
“Manchester United v Liverpool will always be the biggest game because of the traditional and history of these two clubs,” he says. And of course, their rivalry.
“It will be a surprise result, and I would be over the moon if Manchester United win against Liverpool. Any United fan will jump for joy!” says Hunter. And should that happen, he’d no doubt be grinning for a long time after that, together with his fellow United fan Stephen Francis.