Louis Saha recalls his memories of taking on Liverpool at Manchester United in fierce grudge matches

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“You feel the pressure,” said Louis Saha, fondly recalling his time in the eye of the storm of Manchester United’s fierce and fiery clashes with Liverpool. “You can feel the city boiling.”

He is no stranger to the high octane and brutal demands placed on players in that all-powerful showdown between two Premier League titans.

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

Louis Saha recalled his memories when he played against Liverpool for Manchester United

Louis Saha recalled his memories when he played against Liverpool for Manchester United

Former United ace Saha told Sportsmail he could 'feel the city boiling' ahead of the derbies

Former United ace Saha told Sportsmail he could 'feel the city boiling' ahead of the derbies

Former United ace Saha told Sportsmail he could ‘feel the city boiling’ ahead of the derbies

But, speaking of the former Everton and Fulham ace, it’s clear he wouldn’t trade his own highs against the old foe for a chance to beat them now.

After going into battle with Roy Keane, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes, it is not surprising.

“The local guys will make you feel like this is going to happen soon,” says Saha, with whom he works 888sport, tells Sportsmail. ‘You really have to understand that the pressure is great. You have to respect it. ‘

Saha also revealed how the club's local players would help him respect the pressure

Saha also revealed how the club's local players would help him respect the pressure

Saha also revealed how the club’s local players would help him respect the pressure

Saha never had any problems with that. He played against them five times in a United Premier League shirt and, despite not hitting the back of the net, remained the consummate professional.

Both teams will face each other again this weekend and as usual there are tons of little subplots. Liverpool need points to withdraw from the Champions League, while United are looking to tighten their hold on second place.

So while they may not be scurrying down each other’s throats for the best spot this time, the tense nature of the build-up remains exactly the same.

“Usually you have previous interviews or previous stories that make the game even more exciting,” says Saha. “It’s a blockbuster every time, I really like that.”

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

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

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

But with an enviable reel to choose from, what’s the memory that stands out the most? “I remember when 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. ‘

To label it special may be an understatement. That little snapshot of history was and still is the dream for little kids growing up. A last minute winner at Anfield – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Introduced late to the bench, Saha watched O’Shea plunge into Pepe Reina’s poor handling to sweep home ahead of the Kop. As he said, the goal sent United on their way to another title.

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

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

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

These days they may not be aiming for the top flight like they used to, with the current 10 point gap between them and Manchester City a huge and yawning gap, but they still have a shot at silverware.

United has now fallen short in four semi-finals under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and wants to go one step further and finally cross the line.

The crushing 6-2 defeat to Roma in the first leg will certainly have contributed to that, but there is a lingering impression of what may have been after their exit from the Champions League.

Talking to him that the Europa League isn’t exactly where the team wants to be, Saha politely disagrees.

“Those trophies mean a lot to play,” he emphasizes. ‘A team builds by trusting that they can win trophies together.

United fell short in the Premier League, but Saha's old club can still conquer the Europa League

United fell short in the Premier League, but Saha's old club can still conquer the Europa League

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

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

However, he admits that an outfit of United’s stature should aim all the way to the top.

“They are a team that should compete for the Champions League,” said Saha. ‘Maybe not at the semi-final level, but they have the quality.

They may not have been consistent enough to push for a championship this year, but they had some great games. I think they have shown that they are a team that everyone in the Premier League will fear. ‘

Saha backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to win his first trophy, saying United are 'feared'

Saha backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to win his first trophy, saying United are 'feared'

Saha backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to win his first trophy, saying United are ‘feared’

There is no doubt that United will be targeting a title tilt next time around, but questions remain as to whether Paul Pogba will play a part in it.

Saha, the mercurial midfielder’s compatriot, would like him to stay at Old Trafford, but admits that off-field factors might leave him heading for a new challenge.

“I would like him to stay with United, but of course 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 maybe not talking to the press and trying to comment on whatever is in the press.

Paul Pogba will play a pivotal role in United's quest to eliminate silverware, but his future is uncertain

Paul Pogba will play a pivotal role in United's quest to eliminate silverware, but his future is uncertain

Paul Pogba will play a pivotal role in United’s quest to eliminate silverware, but his future is uncertain

‘It is difficult, he is always attacked. He just needs to focus on his soccer, enjoy his soccer, and focus on being fit.

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

“When I see a guy who is very motivated and does all his hard work, he’s gold.”

United hopes the color will match the shine and shine of their winners’ medals in Gdansk next month.

Louis Saha spoke on behalf of 888sport. Head to 888sport for the latest Premier League chances.

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