Big Match

This is Reds’ year: James

Leading striker Mohamed Salah (right) and dependable defender Virgil van Dijk will be the key men who can end Liverpool's league title drought this season.
Leading striker Mohamed Salah (right) and dependable defender Virgil van Dijk will be the key men who can end Liverpool's league title drought this season.PHOTO: REUTERS

Ex-Liverpool goalie believes Klopp has learnt from failures and can lead team to 'Holy Grail'

The fact that Liverpool have never won the Premier League title has been a constant source of grief for the supporters of the Reds, and glee for rival fans.

But, former Reds and England goalkeeper David James believes Jurgen Klopp's men will lift the "holy grail" this season.

"My son is in his 20s and he has never seen Liverpool win (the Premier League, which was inaugurated in 1992).

"There's always going to be doubt and pressure until Liverpool win the league," the 48-year-old told The Sunday Times last Friday in a phone interview.

"It's always described as the holy grail for Liverpool, they have won everything else except the Premier League. The advantage has to be with (joint leaders) Manchester City in a sense because they have that experience.

"But Klopp has won leagues before. The big games haven't gone quite right for him but all that adds experience for him and the Liverpool fan in me thinks this is Liverpool's year.

  • MAN UNITED V LIVERPOOL IN NUMBERS

  • 1

    Liverpool have lost just one of their last 13 Premier League away games (W9 D3), while Manchester United have kept just one clean sheet in their 12 home league games this season.

    2

    Both sides have averaged over two goals a game in their last 10 matches but have managed to keep only two clean sheets in their last five league outings.

    7

    United have won seven of their last nine home league games against Liverpool.

"They are top of the league, and still able to win games without scoring fours and fives. It is a credit to their defence being that good.

"Maintain this level of performance, that would be enough."

Former Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre added: "For sure it helps to know what it takes, like how United did year after year.

"Maybe Liverpool don't know their limits at the moment but they did so well last season already. And I think they are not far off reaching their goal this year."

The two former players are in Singapore for Football Moments, the live screening of the Man United-Liverpool clash presented by Chang Beer and organised by Singtel Media at Clarke Quay.

For Liverpool's title push, they will have to overcome a United side revitalised by interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Norwegian stepped in after Jose Mourinho was sacked in the aftermath of their 3-1 loss in the reverse fixture last December.

SIGNS OF A CHAMPION

They are top of the league, and still able to win games without scoring fours and fives. It is a credit to their defence being that good. Maintain this level of performance, that would be enough.

DAVID JAMES, former Liverpool goalkeeper on their league title chances.

Ex-United striker Solskjaer has guided the Red Devils to 11 wins in 13 games since, including away victories at Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Silvestre, who played with Solskjaer from 1999 to 2007 when they won four league titles, said: "If you have to judge on the past 13 games, with just one defeat, you would give him the job straight away, because I don't see a reason why not."

The Frenchman, 41, recalled how Solskjaer was mad about the video game Football Manager while other players indulged in more "exciting" games.

He said: "Because he wasn't a starter most of the time, he would study the game and the defenders and how he should behave and what he should do.

"I have never seen such a good sub. When you come on for the last 10 or 15 minutes, it is not easy but straightaway he was having an impact because he was always reading and studying the game from the bench. It's not a surprise he became a manager.

"He is the key to all the changes. What has changed are obviously the more positive style of play and the mood, which were missing," added Silvestre, who predicted a low-scoring win for United tonight.

James gave Solskjaer an A+ for his man-management skill, noting that the Norwegian would interact with his players after every game.

"I love what he does. He makes time for every single player, even the guys on the bench he will high-five and hug them and say thanks," said the pundit, who guessed a Mohamed Salah brace will give the Reds a 2-0 win tonight.

But James also noted the Solskjaer has not had to "hire and fire" anyone as the interim manager.

He said: "Once you take over the helm as full-time manager then it becomes less of a friendly relationship than a business relationship."

"A world-class player wants a world-class contract and if (Solskjaer) is not in a position to give them that, then some will not perform the way they should."

SEE ALSO Time for Solskjaer to step out of his master's shadow

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 24, 2019, with the headline 'This is Reds’ year: James'. Print Edition | Subscribe