The former Reds star admits that he relished meetings with arch-rivals, while he has also reflected on his Champions League-winning exploits
John Arne Riise considers meetings between Liverpool and Manchester United to be “the best of the best”, with two old adversaries preparing to rekindle their rivalry with potential title challenges on the line.
The Premier League crown remains in the hands of Anfield heavyweights for now, with a 30-year wait for top-flight glory on Merseyside brought to a close in 2020.
Defending that prize will not be easy, with the playing field starting to level out this season.
That has allowed others, such as United, to come back into the mix and hit the top of the table with 17 games gone.
Plenty are suggesting that the Red Devils can sustain a push for prestigious silverware, with their next outing set to show whether that big billing is justified or not.
Riise is among those looking forward to seeing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer take on Jurgen Klopp, with there always something special about meetings between the north-west neighbours regardless of what is at stake.
“I loved playing in the Liverpool v Man United game, more than the Merseyside derby, in fact,” former Reds left-back Riise told Ladbrokes.
“The only reason for that is because those games against United were games where you’re playing against a side who is fighting for the same thing that you are; the Premier League title, or the top four, winning trophies.
“With Everton it was more just passion because the two teams are from the same city. It was always tough against Everton, don’t get me wrong. But I preferred playing against Man United because you know you’re playing against the best of the best.”
Riise faced United on plenty of occasions during his seven years at Liverpool between 2001 and 2008, but the undoubted highlight of his time in England was a Champions League triumph in 2005 – although the Norwegian has mixed memories of that night after missing his penalty in a shootout.
Riise said of a memorable evening in Istanbul against AC Milan: “I’ve only watched the game back once, two years ago, and that was only because I had to for work. I don’t watch it because I missed my penalty.
“I had severe cramp by the time the shootout came around, having played the 90 minutes and extra-time. So when I walked up to take my penalty, I didn’t know what I was going to do.
“Normally I’d be confident and would just bang it in as hard as I could because that way my style – but I was so scared of getting cramp in my right foot if I went with that approach that it made me reconsider what I was going to do.
“So, walking up to the spot I thought to myself I’ve got three options: smash it, place it or try a Panenka. I was thinking about the Panenka which is quite crazy but I wanted to be remembered.
“I put the ball on the spot, walked back and turned around to begin my run-up; it was only at that moment I decided exactly what I was going to do. It’s the only time in my life I haven’t done what I should have done: smash it.
“The funny thing is that I walked back to my team-mates, Stevie came and gave me a hug and then Jamie Carragher turned to me and said ‘Ginge, haven’t you seen Dida has dived to the same side for every penalty?’ I said ‘why the f*ck did you not tell me that before I went up there?!'”