Manchester United vs Liverpool: Steve McManaman laments Reds and United's 'lost identity' ahead of Premier League clash

'We haven't got the Nevilles, the Carraghers anymore', said the former Liverpool player

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The Independent Football

Manchester United welcome Liverpool to Old Trafford on Saturday evening, in a rivalry that is traditionally seen as English football's most heated and impassioned, full of regional pride.

However, in the build-up to this weekend's game, BT Sport pundit Steve McManaman has lamented both sides' lack of local-born players.

"It's something these two sides are missing now," the former Liverpool midfielder, born and raised in the city, told The Independent.

"Even when compared to two or three years ago, both clubs have lost a lot of identity. When you look at the teamsheets, local players aren't there."

 

Since taking over at Old Trafford, Louis van Gaal has shown the door to Mancunians like Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, as well as academy graduates Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans, who were themselves steeped in the club's history.

Meanwhile at the BT Sport pundit's old club, following the departure of Steven Gerrard, an injury-plagued Jon Flanagan is the first team's only Liverpool-born player.

"Thankfully, Wayne [Rooney]'s still there," McManaman said. "He knows the history of this fixture, but how many others have a mad, passionate desperation to play in this game?

"We haven't got the Nevilles, the Carraghers anymore, that type of player who fights and knows what this occasion means. It’s nostalgic, but I find that quite sad."

It is likely that United’s Wayne Rooney, a Liverpudlian, will be the only representative from either city to feature on Saturday evening.

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Wayne Rooney celebrating his goal against Liverpool in last season's Old Trafford fixture

Nevertheless, McManaman still expects a lively affair and challenged the new recruits on both sides to write themselves into the fixture's folklore.

"Both teams are in transitional periods with a lot of new faces coming in, both are struggling to gel at the moment," he said. "One player has to be a superstar at the weekend and ignite their respective team's season.

“It could be Danny Ings or Roberto Firmino for Liverpool, especially now that Philippe Coutinho is out of the side.

“If you ask Liverpool fans, Coutinho’s been the main man so far this season until his sending-off against West Ham. He'll be a big loss and somebody has to step up to the mark.

"For Manchester United, it could well be Anthony Martial."

McManaman is excited to see Martial, a player he rates highly, in Premier League action. However, he cautioned against expecting too much too soon from United’s deadline day acquisition, despite the Frenchman’s estimated price-tag of £35m.

“I've seen him a few times and I think it's important not to heap pressure on him because he's cost a lot of money,” McManaman said.

“He's a good young centre forward, I hope he does well in future and makes a name for himself, I really do, but you can't go mad on him. It's unfair, especially while he's trying to adapt to a new league.”

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Dejan Lovren was criticised for his performance in the 3-0 defeat to West Ham

The former Liverpool midfielder also warned against any knee-jerk reactions to his old club’s last result, a shock 3-0 home defeat to West Ham.

Debate has raged among Liverpool fans since the game, especially over Dejan Lovren’s place in the centre of defence. However, McManaman believes that manager Brendan Rodgers should show faith in a back four that kept three clean sheets in the club’s opening three Premier League fixtures.

"The West Ham result was a real bolt from the blue but, against Manchester United, I think you are taking a big chance if you start changing the team around, especially when you consider everyone has been away on international duty."

"You haven't got the time to bring a new, solid back four or five in and work on new shapes and formations. That's too difficult when everybody's been away on internationals."

"Lovren was fine against Arsenal, he was fine against Bournemouth, he was fine against Stoke. Yes, there were problems against West Ham but I wouldn't necessarily start changing the formation around for a game as difficult as Manchester United at Old Trafford.”

Watch Bordeaux v Liverpool on Thursday 17 September live and exclusive on BT Sport Europe from 6pm. BT Sport is the new home of European football, with all UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches exclusively live. Visit btsport.com/europe

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