Rodgers wants Reds to make statement
LIVERPOOL -- Brendan Rodgers has called on his Liverpool players to put down a marker in the Premier League title race by securing a first win away at Manchester United since 2009.
Ahead of Sunday’s visit Old Trafford, Rodgers’ side are in second place, seven points behind Chelsea, but have played a game fewer than the leaders -- who still have to visit Anfield.
Liverpool’s last away win over United was five years ago to the day on Friday, when Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena scored in a 4-1 victory.
The 2008-09 campaign was the last time that the Reds mounted a serious title challenge, but ultimately finished second after being held to too many draws.
Rodgers’ side, though, have dropped only four league points in 2014, and could yet be crowned champions of England for the first time since 1990.
The former Swansea boss points to the fact that Liverpool have proved this season that they can get victories at bogey grounds, winning at Tottenham for the first time since 2008 and at Southampton for the first time since 2003.
Rodgers said: “We’ve gone into a number of away games this season at venues where we haven’t done so well in the past.
“The performance back in 2009 was a terrific win. It’s a different group of players, it’s a different mentality and a different manager. But we go into every game with the belief that we can win. And that will be no different on Sunday.
“It would put down a marker for us. We’ve had a number of those statistics this year. We hadn’t won away at Tottenham for quite a while and we performed there and won 5-0. We hadn’t won at Southampton -- which was a real tough away game -- for 11 years, and we won 3-0 there.
“I will take the very same approach going into this game. It’s a difficult game because of the level of opponent, but we’ll go in with that same aggression and confidence that we can cause problems to any opponent.”
Even though Chelsea lead the way, Rodgers believes that the title is Manchester City’s to lose.
City are fourth in the table, two points behind Liverpool and Arsenal, and nine behind Chelsea, but have three games in hand on Jose Mourinho’s side and a better goal difference.
Rodgers said: “I’ve said from the very beginning that it was always Manchester City’s title to lose because of the nature of their squad. And of course, now they have three games in hand, and if they win those games, they go ahead. So it’s within their hands.
“But of course, Chelsea have got the points. They’re ahead. And because of the squad they have, they’ll see themselves as having a big opportunity as well.
“It’s going to be an exciting finish. We’re only concentrating on our own work, and we’ll see if we can push these teams right to the very end.”
A Liverpool victory at Old Trafford on Sunday would pile the pressure on David Moyes, who is likely to mark his first season in charge at United by leading them to their lowest league finish since 1991.
Moyes has had a torrid first nine months in charge since replacing Sir Alex Ferguson as manager of the reigning champions, and his future is by no means secure, even though his contract runs to 2019.
Rodgers, like Moyes, had to follow a hugely successful name when he took his current job, replacing club legend Kenny Dalglish in 2012.
The Liverpool manager points out that there is no real comparison between the two situations, as virtually all of Dalglish’s success came during his first spell at Anfield as player and then manager, between 1977 and 1991.
By contrast, he won only the 2012 League Cup during his second stint in charge of Liverpool, while leading the club to eighth place in the league before being sacked.
Rodgers, though, can understand the pressure Moyes is under, and has backed him to succeed eventually.
He said: “I’ve empathy for the pressures. There are pressures coming into a big club. I can only talk for myself, when I came in here, following Kenny, who was and still is a club legend here. But it never intimidated me. To manage at this level, you’ve got to have the self-confidence.
“You’re not worried about who’s sitting behind you in the stand, and who’s up there in the clouds watching you. That doesn’t happen when you’re a manager at this level.
“I’ve empathy over the pressures that come with taking over such a huge club. But the states of the two clubs are incomparable, because they were champions. They have serial winners in there. I took this club when they were eighth. So the building and remodelling of the two clubs were totally different.
“David will be fine there. He’ll get it right. It’s been a steep learning curve for him. He’ll have gone in there and seen things -- and you’ve only got a certain length of time to address them. But I’m sure he’ll have learned a lot this season, and he’ll kick on.”