From The Sun
WE know football will never truly be back until the grounds are full of fans again but for Manchester United, silence is golden.
They go to Anfield to face one of their fiercest rivals looking down on Liverpool, top of the table at this stage for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson left.
It’s always one of the biggest games of the season and the fact they’re first and second makes this one even spicier.
You can imagine what it would be like in ‘normal times’, packed to the rafters, the Kop belting out the songs and lifting their team. For visiting sides, it’s as intimidating as it gets.
Lots of Liverpool players over the years will tell you it makes them feel ten feet tall and plenty of opponents – even the most experienced – have turned to jelly.
But take away that crowd and it’s a huge loss.
Do you really think they’d have come back from 3-0 down against Barcelona in the Champions League that night in an empty stadium? Not a chance.
You hear the noise, look at the fans and think, “Oh my God’’.
It’s true what they say about the Kop sucking the ball into the net.
There’s no love lost between these two, for sure, so not having to cope with that crowd is a huge thing in United’s favour.
Without them it isn’t really like an away game. There isn’t that hatred and intensity you always get in this one.
And if that’s a bonus for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, so is the fact Liverpool have been so poor at the back.
Let’s be honest, they were pretty average until Jurgen Klopp sorted out the centre-back and goalkeeping problems by signing Virgil van Dijk and Alisson.
Well, Van Dijk is out, so is Joe Gomez — and Trent Alexander-Arnold is going through a bad patch.
I can see them really struggling to defend set- pieces — and you wonder who’s going to mark Harry Maguire.
He’s the best header in the country and every Liverpool fan will be holding their breath whenever United have a corner.
Maguire could actually be their biggest threat, and I do think United can get something — but the biggest certainty is that there will be goals.
Neither side is great at the back. I think the two forward lines are too good for the defences, so if this ends up goalless we’re all in trouble.
People keep saying United are in a false position, they aren’t genuine challengers, but why shouldn’t they be fighting for the title?
We’re nearly halfway through and look at the players they’ve got — men like Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, who’s really started to play.
With no fans, it’s all a bit tepid and placid. Lots of games are almost like friendlies and the Premier League is wide open.
I can see six or seven still battling it out going towards the final month. Liverpool will be up there, so will Manchester City.
Spurs are going well, Chelsea have a shout, and I wouldn’t write off Leicester.
So there’s no reason why United won’t be in the mix as well.
I’m really pleased for their manager because everyone looked at Ole and said it’s only a matter of time before he gets the elbow.
To be honest, I had serious doubts about how long he’d last and it didn’t look great for him when they were stumbling at the start of the season.
There have been some poor defeats, especially that one against Tottenham. And when they didn’t get past the Champions League group, he really looked in trouble.
But Ole has turned it round, his team are playing some great stuff again and there’s no doubt they could get a result.
Whatever happens, it should be a cracker. It’s just a shame there won’t be any fans there — although United won’t be complaining.
IF I had a quid for every time I heard a coach shouting ‘pass, pass, pass’ I could keep myself in jam roly-poly for life!
For me it’s all about ‘dribble, dribble, dribble’ — players taking on defenders, the winger running at a full-back and causing havoc.
That’s why it was so good to see Ademola Lookman have such an impact for Fulham in their draw at Tottenham on Wednesday.
Lookman is a dying breed, someone who can beat people and change a game — and he certainly did that.
I loved watching him at Charlton but for some reason it didn’t work out at Everton and he ended up at Leipzig.
Now, in boss Scott Parker, he’s got someone who believes in him again. And with a talent like Lookman, Fulham will always have a chance.
I’VE heard some rubbish in my time but the suggestion Ryan Fraser got himself sent off deliberately at Sheffield United this week is as stupid as it gets.
The rest of the Newcastle team would have beaten up Fraser if he’d done it on purpose.
And in my book, anyone who doesn’t get on with Steve Bruce shouldn’t be playing the game.
Brucey is a great guy, a fantastic competitor and a top manager.
So I’m just not having it that he’s lost the dressing room.
The fact Newcastle are struggling is, for me, simpler than that — he has a bunch of average players who don’t look capable.
It doesn’t take a genius to work that one out.