Rodgers: Reds closing the gap to United
Brendan Rodgers insists that Liverpool are getting closer to matching Manchester United – and that the rivalry between the two clubs eclipses the Merseyside derby.
David Moyes will go to Anfield in the Premier League on Sunday as United manager for the first time, having failed to win there in any of his 12 visits as Everton boss.
Rodgers believes that Moyes will see for himself that a Liverpool-Manchester United match is bigger than a Liverpool-Everton clash.
And the Liverpool boss also believes that, despite finishing 28 points behind champions United last season, his team are better prepared to challenge them this season.
He said: “Well there’s an intense rivalry there. I’ve experienced both games now as Liverpool manager – the United game and the Everton game – and there’s something a wee bit more intense in this rivalry.
“It’s not just the football club you’re representing, it’s the city.”
United won both league meetings 2-1 last season, but Rodgers feels that Liverpool have been a much-improved side since losing at Old Trafford in January.
He added: “If you look at our numbers since we last played Manchester United in January, there’s the improvement. That’s where we’ve really kicked on.
“The big thing for us is consistency. For when we played them in January, we’ve had 18 Premier League games each. They’ve won 11, we’ve win 10. They’ve drawn five games, we’ve drawn six. And we’ve both lost two games.
“So over the course of that period from January, they’ve made two points more than us – and they became champions.
“For us, it’s a case of continuing with that consistency. If we can do that, then I think we can compete with them.
“We know it’s a really difficult job. But we’ve shown enough in the last months – over the second half of last season and at the beginning of this one – to suggest that we can sustain a challenge.
“That’s something we’re very determined to do this season.”
Rodgers feels that Moyes is capable of proving himself a worthy successor to Sir Alex Ferguson, who won the Premier League 13 times and the Champions League twice during 26 trophy-laden years at Old Trafford before retiring in May.
“Going in after Sir Alex is a big ask for any manager,” Rodgers said. “David did a terrific job at Everton and has earned the right to go in there and do it the way he wants to.
“David’s got a group of winners, and they’re players who have been there a long time. He knows it’s a massive job – like coming into Liverpool – it’s a huge challenge. But you embrace that because of the nature of the clubs, and the challenge of bringing the success that the clubs are used to.
“I’m sure he’ll feel different in a Liverpool-Manchester United game to how he felt in a Liverpool-Everton game.
“This is arguably still one of the biggest games in the world. And he’ll feel that at Anfield, I’m sure.
“David’s been to Anfield a number of times before with Everton, but there’s a different feel to this one.
“This is a rivalry that’s passionate, fierce and competitive, which is what you want, but there’s also a respect between the two clubs as well.”
Liverpool will go into Sunday’s game without left-back Aly Cissokho, who is set to miss up to six weeks with an ankle injury sustained during Tuesday’s 4-2 Capital One Cup win over Notts County.
Centre-back Kolo Toure is also a major doubt with a groin problem, while Joe Allen is struggling with hamstring trouble – with both players also injured on Tuesday.
But Rodgers has confirmed that Toure’s injury is likely to heal more quickly than initially expected.
He said: “Kolo’s injury is nowhere near as bad as what we thought. We’ll just assess that over the next 24 to 48 hours.
“I think we were all thinking he might be out for longer after the game, but he’s made an excellent recovery, and the diagnosis isn’t anywhere near as bad as what we thought.
“We’ll see how he is for this weekend. If it’s not this weekend, we think that he won’t be too far away after the international break.
“With Joe, it was only a grade one strain, so he may be doubtful for the weekend, but he’ll be fine after the international break.
“Aly Cissokho could be out for four to six weeks, which is a blow, because he came in and trained really well last week.
“He’s on crutches at the moment, and we’ll look at that over the coming weeks. But he certainly won’t be available on Sunday.”