Liverpool fans’ favourite Dirk Kuyt believes Manchester United are under “enormous pressure” this season – and plans to increase it by inspiring Feyenoord to victory in the Europa League.
Jose Mourinho has brought energy back to Old Trafford after a bumpy start to the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, which has seen them fail to reach the Champions League in two of three campaigns.
It means United are now preparing for their first-ever group campaign in the Europa League or UEFA Cup, its predecessor, kicking off their campaign in Holland against Feyenoord and a familiar face in their skipper Kuyt.
With Liverpool for six years up until 2012, the 36-year-old became a firm favourite at Anfield and netted a hat-trick in a 3-1 success over United in March 2011.
“I played there for six years and for me it was one of the biggest games of the season so now to play again against Manchester United is great,” Kuyt said.
“It’s a great chance, not only for me but for Feyenoord, for the team, we have a young team.
“It’s good experience for them and a great game to play, so we’re really looking forward to it.
“I have great memories of playing against United. We won a couple of games, I scored a hat-trick at Anfield, but I also remember a couple of games at Old Trafford, playing with Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard.
“I can remember a late goal of mine in the FA Cup, so great memories and hopefully tomorrow will be another great day to remember.”
Feyenoord approach the match in fine fettle, having won all five Eredivisie matches to date.
United’s 100 per cent start to their campaign came to a halt on Saturday as Pep Guardiola struck the first blow in the title race as Manchester City triumphed 2-1.
Kuyt believes they are contenders for the Premier League this crown but underlined how that loss has increased the load.
“Everyone can see what it did to the team when they lost to City at the weekend, already there is more pressure on the team, although the teams in the Premier League have difficulties in challenging the teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
“For me, the Premier League is still the toughest league in the world, so it’s great to watch.
“Of course I try to watch Liverpool every week, and all of the teams, and for me Manchester United is a contender to win the league this season, but there are a few more.”
Kuyt is joined in the Feyenoord ranks by former Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones, with the duo set to start at a partially-closed stadium on Thursday.
The club are taking various measures for European home games this season in a bid to avoid triggering suspended punishments handed down by governing body UEFA for crowd trouble.
On Thursday the capacity will be reduced to 30,000 and additional stewards will be employed, while a 10-metre high net surrounds the pitch.
“Our fans are very important to us,” Kuyt said. “They helped us last season during difficult matches.
“Of course to play in a full stadium is the best there is, but we have to cope with the difficulties we have from the fines we had over the last couple of years, so we as Feyenoord have to decide to do these kind of things.
“Of course, we are not happy as players, the supporters are not happy, but also the directors of the club are not happy, but we had to do this.
“I just hope in the future we can handle these kind of problems, because everyone wants to play in a full stadium, but at this stage we had to do this.”
Press Association Sport