Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson will lead his team out at Anfield tonight, knowing that a victory over their old rivals Manchester United would take them joint top of the Premier League. Level on points with Manchester City and Arsenal.
The Sunderland-born midfielder is seeking revenge after back-to-back league defeats to United last season, but will come up against a new man taking the reins this time around, in the opposition dugout.
Jose Mourinho has made a steady start to life as Red Devils boss, but Henderson will be hoping to inflict misery on the Portuguese in the same manner in which he did to Liverpool with Chelsea back in April 2014.
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The Reds, for the first time in 24 years, went agonisingly close to winning the title, only for a Steven Gerrard slip to allow Demba Ba through on goal to seal victory for the Blues, under the Portuguese's guidance.
In true Mourinho style, the 53-year-old's team ground out a result with defensive discipline and it made for an ugly match in which Liverpool were frustrated and later made to pay.
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But although Henderson struggles to remove the image of Mourinho running down the touchline, towards the away fans in the Anfield Road end, thumping the Chelsea crest on his gilet, he is ready to put that all in the past with a victory tonight.
“I will never forget the way they played the game,” Henderson admitted to The Times.
“It was very slow, they sat in. It was difficult to watch. Throw-ins, goal kicks, they were taking forever and that got everyone worked up in the stadium and it worked to their advantage because they got the result they came for — one that had a big impact on us not winning the league.
Hard to watch
“It wasn’t a nice game to watch but full credit to him [Mourinho]. If we can keep performing the way we are and win, we can put that to bed.”
Henderson has come a long way since then; taking over as captain from Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard and proving his critics wrong.
In fact, the former Sunderland midfielder has progressed so significantly since moving to Anfield in 2011 that he recently took the England captaincy from Wayne Rooney, who is likely to start for United from the bench on Monday evening, for the Three Lions' World Cup qualifier against Slovenia.
But the 26-year-old, who has enjoyed a fine start to the campaign, admits he wouldn't be surprised to see Mourinho arrive at Anfield and deploy similar tactics again - regardless of the fact that he's now in charge at Manchester United.
However, this time Henderson is eager to face a Mourinho side which he missed out on competing against in that famed 2-0 defeat at Anfield back in 2014, after sitting out with a three-game suspension.
“They could do [the same],” Henderson admitted. “Mourinho will do whatever he thinks he needs to win the game.
“We will be prepared for whatever is thrown at us. We’ll play as we have been. If we keep doing that it doesn’t matter what other teams will do. They’ll not live with us.”
Jurgen Klopp has re-energised a Liverpool side that reached two finals last season with the welcome addition of Sadio Mane, who is helping to form a prolific goalscoring Reds side, alongside Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino.
And while the likes of United, Manchester City and Chelsea all spent vast sums of money during the summer, Henderson is confident that Klopp can get the very best from the crop of talent at his disposal, to be challenging for the ultimate prize at the end of the campaign.
“The Merseyside derby is a huge game but United has got a different edge to it,” Henderson said. “A win would give everyone the belief to keep winning games to challenge for the title.”
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