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ESPN STAR Sports’ Manchester United vs Liverpool FA Cup Discussion with Steve McMahon and Paul Parker

Yesterday, I had a great opportunity to meet with ex-Liverpool midfilder Steve McMahon and ex-Manchester United right-back Paul Parker at ESPN STAR Sports in person to listen to their views on the upcoming Manchester United vs Liverpool FA Cup match.

This weekend’s big Manchester United vs Liverpool FA Cup tie will be available LIVE, via mio SingTel, at 9.25pm:

STAR Sports (Television)
ESPN HD (Television)
ESPN Player (Online on www.espnplayer.sg)
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Analysis of the game and the predicted outcome by ex-Liverpool midfilder Steve McMahon and ex-Manchester United right-back Paul Parker after the break.

1. Where will the game will be won and lost?

Parker: Man United will be exploiting the wings and can get the ball quickly to Nani, or Giggs, they will give Liverpool a torrid match to forget.

McMahon: It will be won in the midfield, I believe Liverpool will play three in the middle and play a 4-5-1 to choke up the passing lanes in the pitch. But in the end Liverpool will struggle in the match given their current poor form.

2. How will the clubs look at this match?

Parker: Manchester will be going into this with fresh legs and Ferguson will have planned to rotate his players intelligently to ensure he’ll put his best side in. This is not any normal FA Cup game with these two teams, it will be about passion and pride and I don’t think Alex will want to be beaten at Old Trafford to his most bitter rival in Liverpool.

Liverpool go into this game looking for a big result, against a big side. For a moment, I thought it was a matter of confidence and they seemed to have been through a turning point after beating Chelsea but they’ve stepped backwards since, but they’ve been more downs than up. But even if they win this one, it’s the next few games that people will be looking at, and it doesn’t matter who they play, it’s now a question of if they can start to get a good run together.

McMahon: Man United will beat Liverpool, based on how they played this season. Right now the players in the Liverpool dressing room are demoralised and confidence has hit rock bottom. Roy, who’s time will certainly be up very soon as manager, sees a victory over Manchester United to lift his team up. But he’s got a major task at hand with a squad that’s low on morale.

3. Are you pleased with Man United so far this season?

Parker: Manchester United would be pleased that they’re still on top of the table, despite not playing very well. I have to say they have been very lucky, plus their nearest rivals have been unexpectedly dropping points. But I can’t see another result than Manchester United winning this match. Ferguson will remember that they failed to get past the first round, and they will certainly be putting their strongest team.

4. Compared to Rafa Benitez, but what do you think of Roy Hodgson so far?

McMahon: Last year under Rafa, Liverpool was standing still and not improving much. But under Roy, they’ve moved backwards.

5. Your Prediction and Score for the match?

McMahon: 2-0 to Manchester at half time. Final score: 3-0
Parker: 2-0 to Manchester United.

6. If you were Roy Hodgson, how would you plan for Liverpool to win Manchester United in this match?

McMahon: I would get to the players’ mentality and question their commitment. Yesterday’s game we saw players going into tackles with a 60-40 percent chance, but losing out to players who want it more. It just seems that the players don’t want to win as badly as their opponents!

I would say to them that they have to think about playing for their careers, regardless of what happens to Roy, and think about playing for the fans, and not to let themselves down.

7. Could this match mean more for Liverpool than Manchester, to turn their season around?

McMahon: I don’t think so. If they win this match, it would be another one-off and wouldn’t help their season. When they beat Chelsea, we all thought they were going to turn the tide, but they went back to performing poorly.

8. Who is Man United’s player that Liverpool should mark all the times? Why?

McMahon: I think Rooney is going to be a dangerous player. He’s yet to score against Liverpool since he started wearing a Manchester United jersey, remember that. Other players what would make an impact would be Nani and Giggs.

Parker: Nani, because not only does he score goals, he’s very capable of creating opportunities for his teammates as well.

9. Do you think who will shoot the first score?

McMahon: I think Rooney has something to prove in this match and he would score first.
Parker: I think Nani’s in good form this season and he’ll be on the scoresheet tomorrow.

10. Normally the match of Man United- Liverpool is very serious. For your opinion, Are there red cards in this match? Do you think about the pattern of this game?

Parker: I hope there will be red cards! That only means that there’s fire in the players’ belly and they’re fired up to win. Mind you this is no ordinary match – any game with two of the biggest clubs in the world and bitter rivals in Manchester United and Liverpool will be played with pride, and you can be sure it will be confrontational.

Manchester United will not want to lose face in this game, especially playing in Old Trafford in front of their own fans. They know what it means to their fans.

Liverpool will be coming in as underdogs and it’s a big big game, and they’ll get their best players on the pitch as well. But I think Liverpool will be playing for the counter-attack, while Manchester will have better possession of the ball.

11. Now the efficiency of Man United is better than Liverpool. Besides this match will be happen in Old Trafford Stadium. Do you think it is easy job for Alex Ferguson or not? Why?

Parker: Ferguson is not taking this match lightly. He’ll remember that his team lost in the same stage to Leeds, and he didn’t field his strongest team. Especially against Liverpool, he’s be out to prove a point – remember these two clubs are tied for 18 league titles and currently the Red Devils have won 11 FA Cups to Liverpool’s 7. Alex will be determined to make sure Liverpool doesn’t improve on their record.

12. Will Michael Owen play against his old club?

McMahon & Parker: No.

13. There is a stat saying that Dimitar Berbatov finds it hard to find the net when Wayne Rooney is not playing, from 14 goals the Bulgarian scored this season so far in the English Premier League and European Cup, only one goal was scored without Rooney on the pitch. Do you agree with this?

McMahon: Berbatov has scored in bunches when Wayne was on the field. I recalled him scoring 3 against Liverpool; 5 against Blackburn and two against Sunderland.

Parker: I think they play off each other very well, and they may not have started well when Berbatov first joined, but they’ve developed a good understanding and they know how to look out for each other.

14. Is there any chance for Liverpool to get something out of this game?

McMahon: No, but there’s always a chance. It’s still a long FA Cup campaign and even if Liverpool beats Man United, they might face another top-four club along the way.

Parker: Only if Ferguson puts out his second stringers, but I doubt he’ll do that against Liverpool. But this is a one-off game, and Liverpool could play with nothing to lose, and that could make a difference.

15. Will Roy Hodgson be sacked if Liverpool loses to Manchester United?

Parker: It wouldn’t make a difference, Liverpool’s lost their season.

McMahon: This could be the game that could cement his sacking. Possibly as early as Monday morning. This is a big game for both clubs, and it always puts on added pressure. Unfortunately for Roy, the game’s come in the worst of times for him. It could be the last game for him to prove himself, or the final nail in the coffin if they lose. Either way, Roy doesn’t have a future in the club with the way he’s managed it so far. But you never know, this could be THE game if Liverpool wins, to lift their season. It’s pride that they have to play for now.

But I’m certain the owners have been looking at other candidates, such as Didier Deschamps, from Marseille. I know he hasn’t refused, but it could be because they’re in the Champions League this season, which may have been a factor. Frank Rijkaard , with his strong resume from Barcelona, as well as Jürgen Klinsmann with his positive work with a young German national team, are possible candidates because they have knowledge of the international game, and they’re young managers with fresh ideas which could invigorate and inspire the team

16. What formation is Liverpool likely to play?

McMahon: I believe Liverpool will play three in the middle and play a 4-5-1 to choke up the passing lanes in the pitch. But in the end Liverpool will struggle in the match given their current poor form.

Parker: Based on their form, Liverpool could just play a 4-6.

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