Manchester United are undoubtedly a good team, but they just seemed to run out of ideas when playing against Southampton last time out.
New signings Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa were expected to inspire the Red Devils to an easy victory but Alex Ferguson had to rely on Paul Scholes once again to make a difference. The Englishman’s impact was evident in the dynamism and energy that followed after his arrival as a substitute.
This time around their opponents will be Wigan, who, unlike Southampton, have sufficient experience playing against United, and manager Roberto Martinez will have fond memories of the upset the Latics recorded over Ferguson’s squad in the previous campaign. Wigan will look to build on a strong start to the season by beating United, and it will be up to the Red Devils to prove that they have learnt from their mistakes.
It should be clear to United and their fans that the team played below their standards against Southampton. Hopefully, that motivates them to put on a better performance this weekend by beating Wigan resoundingly. Another team that has plenty to prove is Liverpool, although they will not have it easy when they visit Sunderland..
Watching Martin O’Neill’s men play Swansea previously, I was impressed with the manner they exerted their presence on the pitch. Steven Fletcher was especially impressive, proving to be a handful upfront against the Swans. As such, I am expecting the likes of him, Louis Saha and Adam Johnson to give the Reds a difficult time.
With Brendan Rodgers’ team continuing their search for three points this weekend, it is obvious that the biggest problem plaguing them is one they have brought over from last season.
The club’s failure to sign a 25-goal per season striker in the recently concluded transfer window is something that baffles me. For all his guile and movement, Suarez simply does not look like the consistent goal-scorer a club like Liverpool needs and Rodgers must rectify this in January or the team will continue to drop vital points.
Raheem Sterling has drawn some attention away from the disappointing results on the pitch and brought some cheer to Liverpool fans. While the youngster does bring freshness and pace to the team’s play, I urge supporters not to get carried away. Sterling still has a long way to go, and it would be premature to pin too much expectation on his shoulders.
Joe Allen is another new name that has generated plenty of positive interest. The midfielder has been hailed by the media and Rodgers as the player that personifies the Reds boss’ preferred style of play. Though I agree the Welshman has done well in recent games, I am disappointed with the lack of recognition given to Steven Gerrard.
Some have pointed out that the Liverpool captain’s direct approach to football contrasts with the possession-based style Rodgers seeks, but I am a believer in Gerrard’s ability to perform in any tactical situation. The 32-year old deserves more credit and Rodgers should find a way to utilise his strengths.
Liverpool were expected to snap up Clint Dempsey from Fulham in the summer but he went the way of Tottenham.
However, for all the new arrivals he has at his disposal, Spurs boss Andres Villas-Boas’ negative tactics could prove to be the club’s biggest obstacle. Although Dempsey and former Cottagers teammate Moussa Dembele have the qualities to light up White Hart Lane, they will struggle to do so if they are not played in the right capacity.
AVB’s preference to play two defensive-minded midfielders, his unwillingness to give Jermain Defoe more opportunities and his decision to sell Rafael van der Vaart are all decisions I believe will come back to haunt him in future.
Brian McDermott’s Reading stand in Tottenham’s way this weekend and the newly promoted side will not be going down without a fight. With the battling Pavel Pogrebnyak leading the line upfront for Reading, Spurs may have to dig deep for their first win of this campaign.
—Former Liverpool and England International Steve McMahon is a football expert with ESPN