Manchester United defender Chris Smalling speaking before the game against Liverpool in the last 16 of the Europa League, says that the emotion of the game against their fiercest rivals will drive the whole team on to try and get a positive result.
Since Louis van Gaal became United manager, he has won all four of his games in the Premier League against Liverpool and a big part of that has been down to the form of Smalling who has been in incredible form at the back for United.
Therefore, Smalling’s return from injury against West Bromwich Albion was crucial and the defender is now looking forward to a physical confrontation against Liverpool’s strikers.
Smalling has played in plenty of games against Liverpool in the past and he says that the “first 20 minutes can be quite frantic, but you want to get the upper hand on your opponent whoever you’re playing against” which in these big derby games between the sides neither team wants to be caught cold and will try to get off to a fast start.
In a game of this magnitude, Smalling says that he likes to dominate the striker “very early on as you want to get an early challenge in and make sure you dominate” which will show that you mean business and you will not be allowing the striker to get the better of you at any time during the match.
Thursday’s game in the Europa League will be the first time ever that United and Liverpool will come up against each other in an European competition which will add even more spice to the fixture.
The defender says the games against Liverpool are what every player looks forward to as the atmosphere is incredible.
The former Fulham man continued by saying “these are the games the players look forward to and it’s one I’m certainly looking forward to playing in” as these are the games that define you as a United player as if you can come away with a big win against Liverpool the fans will love it.
Smalling also revealed that Van Gaal makes sure that “we work on the training pitch before the game on our tactics so we don’t get caught up in the occasion” and this is key as if you as a player let emotion get the better of you then you could end up costing your team in such a big game.