Scottish Daily Mail
Gerrard to unleash big guns against United
STEVEN GERRARD wrote his name into FA Cup folklore with his heroics in the 2006 final and expects Aston Villa players to follow his lead at Manchester United tonight. With squads stretched to the limit by Covid and the festive fixture list, many managers view the cup as a chance to give their key men a breather. However, as he prepared for a hot reception at Old Trafford, Gerrard insisted he will take a different approach. The former Liverpool captain produced one of the all-time great FA Cup final displays against West Ham 16 years ago, and was also part of the Liverpool side that lifted the trophy in 2001. ‘We will pick the strongest possible team,’ said the former Rangers boss. ‘There is enough time to recover before the next game, so it makes no sense to make wholesale changes. ‘The cup competitions should be looked at as opportunities to impress ourselves and our fans. You would be very naïve to underestimate this competition. ‘Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the FA Cup will always be a very special trophy. ‘My message to the players is they can have some of the highlights of their career in this competition. If you’re English, you grow up watching the final and dream of playing in it.’ After an excellent start under Gerrard, Villa were beaten in their last two games, by Chelsea and Brentford, though the loan signing of Philippe Coutinho has raised expectations once more. Gerrard was just 15 when Villa beat Leeds in the League Cup final nearly 26 years ago and says it’s high time they end that trophy drought. ‘I understand the financial rewards of the Champions League and how big the Premier League has become, but we have to analyse what is possible,’ he said. ‘The FA Cup is our only chance to win a trophy this season. ‘So we need to respect that and give this game everything.’ Meanwhile Ralf Rangnick has told his players that a pressing game is the only way forward for Manchester United — and they must be ready to deliver exactly what he wants. ‘This is the only way we can compete at this level,’ he said. ‘Whenever you watch games, even if it’s not the top teams, they play with intensity, physicality, energy and they sprint. This is what we have to do. We have to develop into this kind of team.’
Manchester United v Aston Villa.