Firmino earns Cantona comparison from Liverpool rival well placed to pass judgement

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Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, who worked with an iconic Frenchman at Manchester United, got a look at how good the Brazilian forward is on Saturday

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino is “similar to Eric Cantona”, says Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, who once worked with an iconic Frenchman at Manchester United.

Back in the early 1990s, a mercurial forward dominated the Premier League scene with his exploits for the Red Devils.

He was not the most prolific, but was an integral part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans as United established themselves as the dominant force in English football.

Liverpool are looking to position themselves back at the summit, with a fearsome attacking unit helping to push them into contention for major honours at home and abroad.

Firmino, like Cantona, has become a key figure as he boasts the ability to produce moments of individual brilliance while also making life easier for those around him.

Bruce got a good look at those qualities on Saturday as the Brazil international stepped off the bench at Anfield to help Liverpool to a 3-1 victory over Newcastle.

The Magpies boss said afterwards: “Firmino is similar to Cantona in that he drifts into that little area and he naturally does it, where it’s so difficult for defenders to go.

“I haven’t seen him week in week out like Eric 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 [Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah], and Cantona dropped into that hole and people couldn’t get anywhere near him. That’s what you see with Firmino.”

Mohamed Salah Liverpool 140919

Mane and Salah got the goals for Liverpool as they recovered from falling a goal down early on to collect a 14th successive Premier League win.

Firmino played a part in the Reds’ second and third of the afternoon, with a clever pass and neat flick helping to tee up two prolific team-mates.

Bruce added on the talented 27-year-old: “His attitude and work rate, it’s so important.

“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 quite unbelievable…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.”

Bruce went on to say of the challenges that Liverpool now face: “Back when I played for United, everybody suddenly started playing one centre forward against us.

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“Back in the day, everyone played with two, then suddenly they would put an extra midfield player in, and it’s what you have to do because you are under threat of getting a hiding.

“And a team like Liverpool, they have two full-backs up the pitch, they attack at every opportunity, then you face being blown away. They can do that to you, and you have to acknowledge that.

“If you open up against sides like this then… the big difficulty we all have, is you have to find a way when you know a team is far better than you – and I say that with no disrespect at all to us – then you have to find a way.”

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