Kenny Dalglish better prepared for Manchester United visit

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The Independent Online

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish will be better prepared for his second meeting with Manchester United in two months than he was back in January.

And he hopes for a better result after conceding a first-minute penalty and having Steven Gerrard sent off after half an hour in the 1-0 FA Cup third round exit.

Dalglish walked out of the Old Trafford tunnel on January 9 less than 24 hours after stepping off a long-haul flight having cut short a cruise holiday in the Persian Gulf to take over from Roy Hodgson.

His predecessor had been sacked the previous evening and Dalglish only got to speak to the players at 10am on the morning of the game.

The Scot, 60 today, inherited a side in disarray, 12th in the table and only four points off the relegation zone.

In two months he has produced a remarkable turnaround and Liverpool are now in a much healthier sixth position with last Sunday's defeat at West Ham their first in eight matches.

And with United having lost at Chelsea in midweek and suffering defensive problems with injuries and suspension it appears the north-west arch-rivals meet at Anfield on Sunday on a more level playing field.

Dalglish has had all week to work with his players ahead of the visit of the Barclays Premier League leaders, who are looking to go past Liverpool's haul of 18 titles this season.

"I never had any time (ahead of their FA Cup meeting). I was in transit but the lads had been well prepared here," said the Scot.

"But obviously that went out the window a little bit in the first minute when they got a penalty and Steven got sent off.

"You can prepare as much as you want but you can't prepare for things like that."

Dalglish will urge his players to be competitive but controlled against Sir Alex Ferguson's side, who have had their own recent discipline problems with Wayne Rooney escaping punishment for an unprovoked elbow on Wigan's James McCarthy last weekend and Nemanja Vidic suspended for Sunday's game after being sent off against Chelsea.

"It's hard for us to talk about discipline when we got somebody sent off in the last game but I don't think it's difficult to be disciplined," said the Reds boss.

"You have to compete and it's a fine line as to how you do that.

"If you do something stupid you deserve to be sent off. I don't think there is a problem with discipline from either team - certainly from us there is no problem.

"You've got to have controlled aggression, not just for this game but for any game.

"You can't go around punching and kicking and headbutting people and expect to stay on the pitch.

"It's got to be within the rules of the game. The lads know the rules but they also know we've got to compete."

Despite the obvious rivalry of a clash between the country's two most decorated clubs of the last four decades Dalglish has tried to play down the significance of one match.

"Every game's very important for this football club but Liverpool-Manchester United is a game that a lot of people look forward to," he added.

"But you get the same rewards for it regarding points, although maybe a bit more credit and you might get a few more inches in the newspaper columns if you get a positive result.

"Every game is [against] a rival. Everybody that stands in front of you is an opponent.

"Everybody plays football to play at the highest level they possibly can and the games between Liverpool and Manchester United are what you term as the highest category of game you can get.

"I suppose anybody that's playing football would love to play in them."



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