'I won't waste my energy' - Milner planning to avoid Manchester derby

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The Liverpool vice-captain will not be tuning into see if City slip up at Old Trafford on Wednesday

James Milner insists he won’t “waste his energy” by watching Manchester City’s crunch clash against Manchester United this week.

City travel to Old Trafford on Wednesday evening knowing any slip would see them hand the initiative to Liverpool in the Premier League title race.

Jurgen Klopp’s Reds went back to the top of the table with a 2-0 win at Cardiff on Sunday afternoon, 24 hours after Pep Guardiola’s champions had seen off Tottenham at the Etihad.

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Two points separate the sides at present, but City can move clear by winning their game in hand at the home of their Manchester rivals.

The eyes of the football world, naturally, will be trained on Wednesday’s game, but Milner says he will be making alternative plans.

“I don’t watch them, to be honest,” the Liverpool vice-captain said. “It’s a bit of a waste of energy, isn’t it, willing the ball into the goal and things like that. I can’t do anything about it.

“Maybe I’ll put my phone away for a couple of hours and check it after. Maybe I’ll go and grab some food or whatever.”

Milner, of course, knows the twists and turns of a Premier League title race better than most. He was a member of the City team which overhauled Liverpool in 2014, and the one which won the title from United in the most dramatic of circumstances in 2012.

Now, he needs a favour from United – which as someone who has played for Leeds, Manchester City and Liverpool, must be a strange feeling.

“It’ll be the first time in my life!” he laughed.

“But there are three games left. United will be a challenge, but it’s the old cliché – any game is tough in the Premier League no matter who you play. To try and win a league title is not easy, whoever you play. Trust me, I know. Remember QPR [on the final day in 2012]? To beat anyone is tough when it is all on the line.

“We’ve still got some tough games ourselves, and we have to win those and keep the pressure up.”

Liverpool did just that at Cardiff, Milner’s penalty sealing a vital three points after Gini Wijnaldum’s spectacular opener. The Reds now have 88 points, more than they have managed in any previous Premier League campaign. Beat Huddersfield at Anfield on Friday night and they will set a club record for points in a single season.

“I think for a long time we have had our head around the fact that we just need to win all of our games,” Milner said. “And if we do that and it’s not good enough, you have to hold your hands up and say ‘well done City’.

“We know they’re a top team and they’ve done it before. They have a great points total but so have we. It’s about encouragement from our side at how we have improved.

“Of course it’s frustrating that we could have one defeat all season and it might still not be enough, but all we can do is win the rest of our games and keep putting them under pressure.”

If Liverpool do win the title, then it will be a triumph of the collective. Klopp’s side has its stars, but it is the team which shines brightest. And after victory in Cardiff, Milner was quick to pay tribute to some of the Reds’ unsung heroes.

“To be successful, you need a good squad,” he said. “It’s impossible to win or challenge for a Premier League without that, and it’s the same in Europe. The amount of games you play, the injuries and suspensions you will pick up.

“There’s competition for places everywhere, and that’s what you need. We have quality players throughout, and some who aren’t even travelling sometimes.

“Someone who hasn’t been spoken about much this season is Simon Mignolet. It’s incredible how he is around the training ground, he has the best attitude I’ve ever seen in my life. Every single day, he pushes himself and pushes Ali and the boys to improve. Nobody will ever speak about him in the press because he’s not on the field, but he’s been so important for us this season.

“That’s exactly what you need, great characters. Even if you’re not playing as much as you would like, the characters in the dressing room are still standing up.”

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