Mikael Silvestre
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Mikael Silvestre on Liverpool v Man United, defending and Paul Pogba

| 14.01.2021

There is no love lost between Liverpool and Manchester United and the two title rivals clash at Anfield this weekend in the Premier League. Who will come out on top?

We sat down with a player who knows a thing or two about what it takes to win this fixture, keep clean sheets and score vital goals too.

Former United defender Mikael Silvestre spoke exclusively to Ladbrokes at it’s launch of the 5-A-Side Bet on Liverpool v Man United…

Advice for Man United defenders

The margin will be very thin this weekend. It’s a game where Manchester United need to avoid giving free-kicks away. Don’t concede corners or soft free-kicks around the box. That would be my advice because I’d expect everything else to naturally be spot on with the guys.

“Luke Shaw has had a lot of time out through injury but when he has played he’s done very well. He’s been so solid and he’s brought some much-needed consistency. He’s getting better and better, and having been at United for a while now it’s good to see him playing a main role in the starting line-up. He’s showing Alex Telles, Brandon Williams and even Aaron Wan-Bissaka the way to play.

“When you play for Manchester United you need to be conscious that there will be competition for places from other international players and the demand and speed of the games means it’s normal to have another guy there to compete against and every day you have to do your best in training and prove why you deserve a place in the starting line-up.

“I can see Solskjaer starting with Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial again on Sunday against Liverpool. It’s a good combination and I think right now it’s a luxury United have to be able to pick from those strikers. Right now, the squad is fairly injury free so there is a lot of quality to choose from and plenty of players are capable of impacting the game positively.”

Silvestre’s brace v Liverpool

“Scoring two goals against Liverpool isn’t done by many players, and the fact that we won the game – more importantly – made it a special night for me.

“It was Rio Ferdinand’s first game back following his eight-month ban and I was playing alongside him. When it came to the corners, we knew that Rafael Benitez was in favour of zonal marking so obviously when you see the way they defended, it was pretty easy to make my run and guide the ball towards the goal when it came to me. I was delighted with that first goal.

“In the dressing room after the game I was flying high. I couldn’t sleep the following night until about three or four in the morning.

“It’s going to sound strange, but we didn’t really celebrate the win because it was just another win for us. It wasn’t like we’d won a trophy.

“Of course, it was a bit more important than most wins because it’s against a big rival but it was just a win at the end of the day. We used to only really celebrate when we’d won something like a title.

“I don’t think I got a specific namecheck from Sir Alex Ferguson in his post-match interviews, but that was the mentality at the club at the time; you received praise only when you won trophies.”

Worst memory of Man Utd v Liverpool

My worst memory of this fixture has to be losing at Old Trafford when Danny Murphy scored that free-kick. It was a horrible game to be involved in terms of the football played that day. It wasn’t great at all.

“You have to try and forget those performances as quickly as possible and bounce back. You up the intensity in training. No one says anything; everyone is disappointed and angry.

“You can’t wait to get back playing in a match again to put things right. I didn’t lose many games against Liverpool which was good for me, of course.”

On Solskjaer pressure

“There have always been managers linked with the Manchester United job since Solskjaer took over. Before Mauricio Pochettino it was Max Allegri.

“Every time there’s a high-profile manager out of a job his name will be linked with Manchester United because of the size of the club. That’s how it is. I don’t think it will bother Ole.

“The staff know the environment and they’ve been trusted since the beginning. I don’t think it’s disturbing internally. That kind of thing will always happen at a club like Manchester United with fans and media speculating, but I don’t think anyone inside the club reads too much into it.”

On Paul Pogba

“When Paul Pogba is giving his best and he’s on top of his game, he’s a key part of things and can add so much to the team. He has world class qualities; We’d just like to see more consistency and he knows that.

“In terms of how the recent situation has been managed, I think both parties have done very well. They’ve made sure the most important thing is what Paul does on the pitch. He’s always growing as a player and he’s giving everything for United.

“It’s a very quiet transfer market due to the pandemic and in a way it’s benefitting the situation around Paul’s future. Almost everything has been said about his future, whether he stays or goes, so a quiet transfer window as far as rumours are concerned can only be a good thing for Manchester United and Pogba.

“Before strengthening, clearly Man United have to make room for players. You can only select 25 players so the main concern for United is to see which players are title-winning players and which ones are not. That’s where the club should be concentrating. Then you can start to think about bringing in new faces.

“They’ve brought in some young players so if they’re up to the task, you have to start making room for them in the squad.”

On Liverpool’s problems

“There are concerns at Liverpool at the moment – especially at the back and I don’t think the attacking players have the freedom they’re used to having because they know they aren’t as strong defensively.

“So because Liverpool are often at risk at the back, the forwards seem to feel obliged to protect their defenders a little bit more; watching runs and preventing counters.

“They don’t have the same freedom as they’re used to when Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are all playing. It’s not the same because in the back of their minds, they’re thinking about being a little bit more compact. That could be one of the reasons they’re struggling up-front at the moment.

“Diogo Jota’s arrival has only been a positive thing for Liverpool. It gives them another option if things aren’t going well and he’s of a quality where the established front three are all on their toes because they now know they could be replaced at any time by Jota.

“In football you need a bit of luck and it’s not going their way at the moment. That will change – hopefully it won’t be this Sunday though!”

Match prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Man United

“I see a draw this Sunday – I think it’ll be 1-1, which would be a good result for Manchester United at Anfield. You want to win every game, obviously. But if you can come out of Sunday’s game keeping Liverpool three points behind then you’ve done well.”

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