Liverpool and Wales legend, Ian Rush, has given his incisive perspectives ahead of this weekend’s Premier League games, with title hopefuls, the Reds, hosting Everton who are fighting to avoid relegation, in the Merseyside derby.
Rush is is underwhelmed by Liverpool’s bitter rivals, Manchester United’s lack of fight; sends warning to United fans on fate of their club.
He also warns Liverpool that the last has not been of Chelsea fightback as the Blues will be out for revenge in second Wembley showdown of season when they clash in the FA Cup final on May 14.
Rush also talks about the Reds’ rivals for the 2021/22 Premier League title, Manchester City, and predicts that the Citizens will be even stronger next season with Haaland at the Etihad.
Ian Rush on Merseyside derby between title-chasing Liverpool and relegtaion-haunted Everton
“Everton travel to Anfield this weekend and both sides really need all three points but for very different reasons.
“I’ve heard a few people say they’d love to see Everton go down but I don’t, personally. For the city of Liverpool, it would be a real shame to lose the Merseyside derby even if it was only for one Premier League season. I would be sad if they got relegated and I’m sure there’s a lot of other Liverpool fans out there who’d feel the same, because it would take something special away from next season.
“Everyone looks for the derby dates once the new season fixtures are announced, imagine the fans not being able to do that? Sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for. It would also be sad for football given how long Everton have been in the top flight.
“The manner of their last-gasp 1-1 draw with Leicester on Wednesday will give them a confidence boost heading in to the Merseyside derby on Sunday.
“Had they lost, they’d have been down on their luck and probably would have been dreading a trip to Anfield after seeing what Liverpool did to Manchester United on Tuesday.
“There’s a bit of daylight between themselves and Burnley now so they have some breathing space and that should ease the pressure on the players.”
Rush on Manchester United: Ten Hag has his work cut out, according to the Liverpool legend who is underwhelmed by bitter rival’s lack of fight; sends warning to United fans on fate of their club
“Liverpool fans have every right to revel in their team’s total dominance over United this season but I was disappointed by the lack of fight shown by the visitors at Anfield on Tuesday.
“When I think of this fixture I reminisce of all the battles I had with United sides throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when both clubs enjoyed respective stints of success.
“So to watch United take a beating without putting up a fight for the second time this season was pretty underwhelming for what should be one of the marquee fixtures in the calendar.
“As good as Liverpool were, when there’s no fight in the opponent it sucks the fun out of the spectacle. Scoring nine without reply over the two league matches is a true measure of where both clubs are at and if I was a United fan I’d be very worried.
“Hannibal Mejbri came on for the visitors with six minutes to go and probably showed more fight in his cameo appearance than the rest of his team-mates did in the 90 minutes. Okay, he got booked for overdoing it, but at least he showed some spirit.
“When Erik ten Hag comes in this summer, he’s got an awful lot of work to do.”
FA Cup Final: Rush Warns the Reds that Chelsea will be out for Revenge at Wembley
“A lot is being made of the Liverpool-Man City rivalry but Chelsea also have a fierce relationship with Liverpool and the two sides will go at it again in the FA Cup final after battling it out in the League Cup final earlier this season.
“Despite everything that’s happening off the field, Chelsea have a really strong squad and will pose a big threat to Liverpool in the final in May. They’ll be disappointed to be out of the title race and out of the Champions League at this stage of the season, but they’ll not want to finish the season empty-handed.
“I thought they should have beaten Real Madrid over the two legs in the Champions League but they bounced back from that setback by beating Crystal Palace in a hard-fought win at Wembley on Sunday. That’s just a little reminder of how good Chelsea are and we haven’t seen the last of them this season.
“They’ll be on a bit of a revenge mission when the FA Cup final rolls around. The League Cup final was one the best goalless draws I’ve ever seen and the penalty shoot-out was very entertaining, so we can expect another fine spectacle on May 14.”
Rush predicts Manchester City would be even stronger next season with Haaland at the Etihad
“It looks as though Man City will be signing Erling Haaland in the summer. Various reports seem genuine this week and Dortmund have a replacement lined up already so it’s looking like we’ll see one of the best young talents in world football grace the Premier League next season.
“Financially, City were always in a strong position to go and get him, but also their improved performances in the Champions League over the past two seasons will probably have been enough to sway Haaland, who presumably has no shortage of options.
“They’re doing just fine without a proper No.9, but I think Pep Guardiola knows they need one going forward – that was evidenced by their attempts to sign Harry Kane last summer.
“It looks as though they’ve ditched the Kane idea and have gone for Haaland instead, which makes sense given his age. I can understand Guardiola not wanting to speak about it in his press conferences as he’s got to keep the players that he’s got at the moment on track.
“The last thing he needs at this stage of the season is to have players wondering what the future holds for them if the manager is already buttering up new signings.
“There’s no doubt Haaland will make Man City stronger, and with Liverpool having closed the gap in terms of squad depth this year, it’s no surprise to see them making their own moves well in advance of the summer transfer market.”
Rush showers praises on Liverpool’s shining stars
“Having said all that, from a Liverpool perspective Tuesday night couldn’t have gone any better and I’m particularly enjoying Sadio Mane’s return to form since he’s moved in to the central role in the front three.
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“Sadio has been fantastic of late, scoring goals, making goals and holding up the ball so well. It’s very difficult to get the ball off him and that assist for Mohamed Salah’s first goal was just exquisite.
“Sadio’s levels dropped a little last season but he seems to be enjoying a new lease of life this year and looks set to break the 20-goal barrier. Ever since he won the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal he’s been excellent so maybe that achievement has added an extra spring in his step.
“He looked a bit tired last season but it seems to me that a combination of success on the international stage and a switch to the No.9 role has done him the world of good.
“In midfield, Thiago Alcantara has been sensational lately and against United he once again showed how world class he is. Maybe United made it a bit too easy for him, but he really looked to be enjoying himself and he was stroking the ball about with such confidence.
“It hasn’t always been plain sailing for Thiago since he joined Liverpool, but the standing ovation he received when he was substituted on Tuesday night goes to show you how much the fans appreciate him now that we’re seeing the very best of him.
“We know Thiago is never far away from an injury so I’ve been pleased to see Jurgen Klopp withdraw him in the second-half of the last two games to try and protect him. He’s going to be a crucial player for Liverpool if they’re to end the season on a high.”
“It was good to see Salah back amongst the goals after a bit of a drought by his own standards, but his lack of goals lately hasn’t cost Liverpool because everyone else has been filling the void. Mane, Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino and now Luis Diaz are all finding the net in various competitions which eases the pressure on Salah, who has so much expectancy on him as our main man.
“Klopp has so many different options and each forward offers something different, which is why we might not see the same combination used in consecutive matches for the remainder of the season.
“I’m a huge Salah fan so whenever he’s available I want to see him start, but I don’t mind at all who starts alongside him as there’s so much on offer. Besides Salah, there isn’t really a pecking order. Luis Diaz has forced his way into the side having taken no time to adapt, but it’s just whoever is best suited to the opponents on the day.”
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