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Jordan Henderson: Liverpool ready for whatever Manchester United throw at us

Jordan Henderson tells Andy Hunter he is still stung by memories of Jos Mourinhos smash-and-grab win with Chelsea in 2014 but says Liverpool are ready for Manchester United

There has been no attempt at Liverpool these past few days to dilute the biggest contest in English club football. It will never be a normal game for as long as I live, Jrgen Klopp said on Friday, visibly excited three days before kick-off. For his captain, Jordan Henderson, the desire to ruin Manchester Uniteds 84th league visit to Anfield will be intensified by the sight of one man: Jos Mourinho. A rivalry that has carried an attritional edge for decades has a new ingredient.

Liverpool may not agree that it is premature to assess whether Mourinho is the right man for United. A combination of the manager who has caused frequent irritation and their fierce adversaries from Old Trafford is a perfect fit in Anfield eyes.

Hendersons grievance is more specific. Diplomacy may be part of the 26-year-olds job as captain of club and country, at least at the expense of Wayne Rooney in Slovenia last week. However, even Henderson admits that memories of Mourinhos part in Liverpools title downfall in 2014 is added motivation to get one over the former Chelsea manager on Monday.

Henderson was suspended when Chelsea derailed Anfields dreams of the Premier League title on 27April 2014. The midfielder was forced to suffer as a supporter when, according to Steven Gerrards autobiography, the ambitious tactics of Brendan Rodgers played straight into Mourinhos trap.

Opening a six-point gap over United so early in this campaign and fuelling the new United managers frustrations in the process would, Henderson believes, sort of put that to bed.

Liverpools current captain, who has been instrumental in the teams impressive start to the season, says: I will never forget that Chelsea game at Anfield when we lost and we were going for the title. It was frustrating for me. I was a fan, I was in the crowd, it was frustrating to watch. I was shouting at the ref to get things going a bitquicker.

It wasnt a nice game to watch but full credit to Jos. It was tactically very good from him and he is a great tactician, he is a worldclass manager and he has shown that in the clubs he has been at. The way they played that game was very clever from Jos. We were on fire at the time and the way they played the game, very slow, sitting in, it was difficult to watch.

Liverpool
Despair for Liverpool and Steven Gerrard as Chelsea win at Anfield in 2014. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

They made it very difficult throwins, 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 and it had a big impact on us winning the league. I will never really forget that, so Monday will be a big occasion, if we can keep performing the way we are and win, to sort of put that to bed.

It will be a tough game. United are a good team who have some very good players and a top manager. We need to be ready and prepared for anything that is thrown at us.

Liverpool have played only seven Premier League games but with only one defeat, seven points from trips to Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, plus several devastating displays in front of goal, they appear equipped to produce the clubs first challenge at the summit since the high point of Rodgers reign.

Every player for me is raising their game and performing really well, Henderson says. In the final third we have been very good, ruthless. We have some very talented players going forward and creating opportunities. Were all getting on the scoresheet, were all getting assists, which helps us as a team. If you are the opposition, you dont know where the goals are going to come from because they could come from anywhere.

In 2013-14 it was the stunning individual talent of Luis Surez that carried Liverpool to the verge of the title, with a fine supporting cast in Daniel Sturridge, Gerrard, Henderson and co. Under Klopp it is the collective that fills Anfield with hope and poses the greatest threat to United.

However, the England international says: I still felt we were a good unit when Luis was here but, obviously, he stood out because he is a world-class player. Luis is one of the best in the world, so he got a lot of the headlines but I think that helped the team as well. He helped take all the pressure off because he was performing and scoring every week. For us it was just go and do what we do, really.

Now everyone is performing really well and getting praise but it is a case of more of the same and not getting carried away with anything. I am sure the manager will be right on top of that. That will definitely not happen in this team with him managing it, so we will just continue executing the game plan like we have been doing.

Henderson insists that United are not a target for Klopps team this season, only for Monday at Anfield. We want to be the best team, not only better than Man United, he says. We want to be better than everyone and thats the mentality weve set.

It is notable that Liverpools captain, as with the subject of Mourinho adding spice to Uniteds presence at Anfield, does not dismiss the suggestion that another statement in victory for Klopps team so early in the season will fuel belief that a title challenge is under way.

Liverpool
Liverpool are supporting Standard Chartereds Seeing Is Believing charity initiative. Photograph: LFC

I think weve got a lot of belief as it is with the performances and results weve had, Henderson says. We believe if we keep working hard and improving, not only as individuals but as a team, and keep listening to the manager, that we are definitely going in the right direction. Thats what everyone wants.

This is a massive game that everyone will be watching but for us its another team who are trying to take away three points and weve got to stop that and make sure we win.

It was one thing for Mourinho to instruct his goalkeeper to waste time with a goal-kick in the first minute while Chelsea manager or to send on his physio within the first 10 minutes, as he did during that 2-0 victory at Anfield, but it would be an affront to Uniteds traditions under Sir Alex Ferguson to repeat the trick on Monday. Henderson is adamant that Liverpool can triumph regardless. They could try and spoil it but thats up to him, isnt it? the Liverpool captain argues.

When we played United in the Europa League last season we had them on the back foot because we had good momentum. We dominated the game and they never got off the back foot. But coming to spoil a game? Im not sure.

Its for Jos to do whatever he wants really. Hell do whatever he thinks he needs to in order to win the game. We will just be prepared for whatever is thrown at us. Well play as we have been. If we keep doing that, working as we have been, it doesnt matter what other teams will do. Theyll not live withus.

Jordan Henderson and Liverpool are supporting Standard Chartereds Seeing Is Believing charity initiative, which helps the 285m people around the world who suffer from preventable blindness. For more information or to donate, visit https://www.sc.com/en/sustainability/investing-in-communities/seeing-is-believing.html

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/oct/16/jordan-henderson-liverpool-manchester-united-jose-mourinho-jurgen-klopp

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