Louis Saha recalls memories taking on Liverpool at Manchester United

‘Any team in the Premier League will fear Man United’: Louis Saha has a warning for Liverpool ahead of Sunday’s Old Trafford showdown and he urges Paul Pogba to ‘focus on enjoying his football’

  • Louis Saha recalled his time facing up against Liverpool for Manchester United 
  • The former United ace said he could feel the town ‘boiling’ in pre-match tension 
  • John O’Shea’s Anfield winner was named as Saha’s best memory from the fixture 
  • Saha has also predicted United to go on to lift trophies as they will be ‘feared’ 
  • Talisman Paul Pogba has been urged to focus on his football by his compatriot 

‘You feel the pressure,’ Louis Saha says, fondly reflecting back on his time in the eye of the storm of Manchester United’s fierce and fiery clashes with Liverpool. ‘You feel the town boiling.’

He is no stranger to the high-octane and relentless demands placed on players during that almighty showdown between two Premier League titans.

Liverpool’s resurgence, coupled with United’s drop-off after Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, has added extra spice to the fixture these days – not that Saha’s own experiences weren’t full-blooded grudge matches either.

Louis Saha reflected back on his memories playing for Manchester United against Liverpool

Former United ace Saha told Sportsmail that he could ‘feel the town boiling’ before the derbies

But, speaking to the former Everton and Fulham ace, it is clear he wouldn’t trade in his own highlights against the old enemy for a shot at taking them on now. 

Having gone into battle alongside the likes of Roy Keane, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes, it is hardly surprising.

‘The local boys will make you feel like this is something happening soon,’ Saha, who is working with 888sport, tells Sportsmail. ‘You have to really understand that the pressure is on. You have to respect it.’

Saha also revealed how the local players at the club would help him to respect the pressure

There were never any problems with that where Saha was concerned. He featured against them five times in a United shirt in the Premier League and, despite not hitting the back of the net, remained the consummate professional.

Both teams will face off again this weekend and, as usual, there are countless little subplots. Liverpool need points to haul themselves back into the Champions League, while United will want to tighten their grip on second spot.

So, while they may not be scrapping at each other’s throats for top spot this time around, the tense nature of the build-up remains exactly the same.

‘Most of the time you have previous interviews or previous stories that make the game even more tense,’ says Saha. ‘It’s a blockbuster every time, I really like that.’

Saha retired from playing in 2013 but memorably played for United between 2004 and 2008

But with an enviable reel to choose from, what is the memory that stands out the most? ‘I remember the time we had a game at Anfield and John O’Shea scored. 

‘I always remember that moment because we knew we were going to win the Premier League. It was a special moment.’

Labelling it special is perhaps an understatement. That little snapshot of history was, and still is, the dream for small children growing up. A last-minute winner at Anfield – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Saha was introduced off the bench late on in that one, and watched as O’Shea pounced on Pepe Reina’s poor handling to sweep home in front of the Kop. As he said, the goal sent United on their way to yet another title.

John O’Shea’s winner at Anfield was chosen by Saha as his standout moment from the fixture

These days, they may not be pushing for the top-flight like they used to, with the current 10 point gap between them and Manchester City a sheer and gaping chasm, but they still do have a shot at silverware.

Having fallen short now in four semi-finals under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United will want to go one further and finally get across the line. 

The crushing 6-2 first leg rout against Roma will certainly have helped with that, but there is a lingering sense of what may have been after their Champions League exit.

Put to him that the Europa League isn’t exactly where the team will want to be, Saha politely disagrees.   

‘Those trophies mean a lot to play,’ he insists. ‘A team builds by having confidence that they are able to win trophies together. 

United fell short in the Premier League but Saha’s old club can still clinch the Europa League

‘They can have bad moments but, as a team together, they can bounce back. I think they showed that six months ago. We were really criticising them all day and all the time.’

He does, however, admit that an outfit of United’s stature must be aiming all the way to the top. 

‘They are a team that should be competing for the Champions League,’ says Saha. ‘Maybe not at a semi-final level, but they have the quality. 

‘They may not have been consistent enough to put the pressure on for a championship this year, but they had some great games. I think they showed they are a team that anyone in the Premier League will fear.’ 

Saha backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to win his first trophy in charge and said United are ‘feared’

There can be no doubting that United will target a title tilt next time around – but there remain question marks over whether Paul Pogba will play any part in it.

Saha, the mercurial midfielder’s compatriot, is keen for him to stay at Old Trafford, but concedes that factors off the field may see him depart for a new challenge. 

‘I would love for him to stay at United but obviously he has to do what he thinks is right for him and his career,’ he explains.

‘I think he can see that by focusing on his football and not maybe talking to the press and trying to respond to whatever it is in the press.

Paul Pogba will play a crucial role in United’s quest to lift silverware but his future is uncertain

‘It’s hard, he’s always being attacked. He should just focus on his football, enjoying his football, and focus on being fit.

‘He’s been really unlucky with Covid and with injuries. Your football talks, just like your smile talks as well. 

‘When I see a guy very motivated and doing all his hard work, the guy is gold.’

United will be hoping that colour matches the glisten and the gleam of their winners medals in Gdansk next month. 

Louis Saha was speaking on behalf of 888sport. Head to 888sport for the latest Premier League odds. 

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