I CAN barely function. I need this tie in my life. I need this tie out of my life.
Manchester United. In Europe. The gods have dragged us out to have a laugh at us. Days like these define seasons. They define years in our lives.
Remember that year we did Real Madrid? How old was our kid when beat the Blueshite 4-0? I’d only just met your mum when we knocked out Roma that time Owen got them two goals.
Manchester United. In the cup. In midweek.
The stage we’re at in the competition is an irrelevance. The competition is an irrelevance. That it’s Anfield matters.
That it’s Old Trafford matters. That it’s them and us matters. Under floodlights in the middle of weeks. The double header-ness of it. All of these things make this really matter.
Juan Mata better not matter. No-one wants to see his frothy failing frizz and Cheshire cat grin celebrating any Manchester United goals.
We’ll be spared Wayne Rooney’s round head and husky’s eyes. Michael Carrick will surely play — the last symbol of what already looks a long bygone age for them.
Louis van Gaal will bring all that pace he forked out for but is still wrestling how to use. Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay looking for solutions alongside their academy finds, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.
The Dutchman may look to load up with midfielders. He’ll not fondly remember the half-time dust-up in his dressing room at Anfield in January.
Then, his team had entirely failed to show up in the first 45 at Anfield. Liverpool had gegenpressed the ass off United and totally dominated them in the middle of the park.
They could look to sit Euro away tie deep and aim to hit us on the counter with their speed merchants. Louis may fret that some of those types aren’t so handy getting back as they are getting forward. Depay, he’s looking at you.
Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera, Carrick and Marouane Fellaini will all have their hands up expecting that their manager will favour conservatism and dogging it at Anfield, over trying to out-football the home side.
Van Gaal’s team are not good, but they have it in them to get a clean sheet when they put their minds to it.
Liverpool, for all the huff and bluster in the league game, ultimately couldn’t breach that line often enough to puncture David de Gea’s goal.
In the home corner, Jürgen Klopp may sense that Liverpool will want this that bit more than their opponents.
Manchester United are still in the FA Cup and perhaps see themselves winning that trophy. In the league they have hugely disappointed but a modest improvement in form could be enough to secure top four.
It is perhaps easy to underestimate just how badly Manchester United needs to be in the Champions League. Their entire business model, their bottom line raison d’etre, needs it.
Their fans and players must feel this pressure. They can’t just put it to bed because Liverpool FC have rocked up in the UEFA cup.
For Liverpool this tie can make sense of a very confused season. It is difficult for all first-season managers to present a team in their own image in debut seasons, but it is always a good thing if they can put one or two memories in the album.
Whatever might happen next, victory over Man United, and significantly, victory over two games, would represent something that felt close to tangible achievement.
In his press conference Klopp appeared to see little merit in fussing over the nuances of double-legged football. His view was that these are just two matches. You can only win one of them at a time.
He will see no difference in his approach this time to his preparation for the league encounter in January.
This time, however, he is blessed with options. He may find that having a riddle to solve in his selection is more troubling than he might have anticipated.
For the last meet with United, the team picked itself. Injuries to virtually all his strikers and Philippe Coutinho prompted him to pick a team of midfielders. In terms of game dominance, a purpose was served but it also served to remind just how the team were struggling for penetration.
As fate would have it, that game proved something of a watershed. The blank that night has been followed by a run of 18 Liverpool goals in six league games. The Reds are on fire.
The selection that will calm pre-match nerves most would be the one that puts aces Roberto Firmino, Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge on the same pitch.
The problem is, only one of that trio have featured in the last two league victories. Adam Lallana and young Divock Origi will both expect to play.
It’s the original ‘nice problem to have’ scenario, but getting the balance right between picking form and quality could define Liverpool’s impact on this tie.
I can speculate no further. Just writing this is shredding me. I’m off after to get those pills for me nerves. May justice be done though the heavens fall.
The team to make a year: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Milner; Coutinho, Firmino, Sturridge.