Steve Bruce believes Roberto Firmino may well be Liverpool’s most important player after comparing the mercurial Brazilian to one of his former Manchester United teammates.
Firmino, who had been afforded a rest at the expense of Divock Origi before the Belgian went off injured, quickly stamped his authority on the game with an excellent pass to put in Sadio Mane to make it 2-1, before some incredible skill teed up Mohamed Salah for a superbly-crafted third to kill the game off in the second half.
And Bruce admits he sees the “perfect balance” that Firmino offers the Reds, claiming it resembles what old teammate Eric Cantona brought to Old Trafford.
“He’s one that drifts into that little area and he naturally does it, where it’s so difficult for defenders to go,” said Bruce. “And his attitude and work-rate, it’s so important.
“Of course, their front three are as good as you are going to play against as a threat to you. The way they play with the intensity, the full-backs are only young and the delivery and presence they bring to the box you can see why they are champions of Europe.
“Cantona is as good a player as I’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen Firmino week in week out like that, but just when you see him here and what he gives them, it’s a perfect balance. And Cantona gave us that.
“Back in the day, we had [Ryan] Giggs and [Andrei] Kanchelskis who had frightening pace and stretched sides so much like Liverpool’s two, and Cantona dropped into that hole and people couldn’t get anywhere near them. That’s what you see with Firmino.
“Firmino is the one that drops in, but the pace of the other two is frightening, he drops in and the other two are running over your shoulder.
“It is… look they are a very, very good team, as good as you get. At this moment in time is there anyone better? The one down the road I suppose is there at the minute, but they are certainly as good as you get.
“When you work against them, and try to negate them, then you see why they haven’t lost for two years here.”
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