Sunday will see England’s two most successful clubs renew their historic rivalry when a demoralised Liverpool travel to Old Trafford to take on a resurgent Man Utd side. Both teams are far from where they want to be at the moment, with United only recently finding some form and Liverpool faltering in the league and in Europe. One thing is for sure however, if any match will bring the best out of each set of players, it is this one. Both set of supporters will be desperate for victory for their team with a lot more than just three points on the line.
United have strung together five wins on the bounce now without playing too well, which is testament to the team and Van Gaal who have been suffering with injuries all season. The Red Devils have managed to climb into third place having beaten Southampton last time out, giving them seven wins in their last 10 with only one defeat. With only eight points the gap to leaders Chelsea and five to City, they will feel that a good festive period can help the team build pressure on the top two going into 2015 in order to consider themselves genuine title contenders. United fans will be in a confident mood going into this one and after suffering defeats in both league clashes including a 3-0 loss in this fixture last season; avenging those results will be on their mind.
Liverpool are in real trouble at the moment and the players will be downbeat after being knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage. After all the hard work of last year, a disappointing set of group matches meant that Europa League football is the only option in the new year, far from ideal for club of Liverpool’s stature. Their league form hasn’t been too bad of late with two wins and a draw out of their last three, but goals have been few and far between and a leaky defence has not helped. Going into Sunday’s clash in ninth place, a performance at Old Trafford could help Brendan Rodgers and his team kick start their season and put together a run of good results to bring back some of the feeling form the last campaign.
United’s injury list doesn’t seem to improve as the weeks go by. It seems as though when players become available, another suffers a knock, with the defence suffering the most. The latest casualty was Chris Smalling, who was substituted off with a groin injury against Southampton, replaced by the returning Jonny Evans. Luke Shaw (ankle), Rafael (groin) and Phil Jones (calf) are all also likely to miss out. Star man Angel Di Maria is in a race to be fit for the game but it does seem touch and go at the moment. Daley Blind is the other absent player with knee ligament damage but Falcao is ready and available having been an unused sub in their last match.
Liverpool are still missing Daniel Sturridge who will play no further matches this year. Mario Balotelli is 50/50 for the game, leaving the Reds short up front with only Lambert and Borini available. Adam Lallana could be available however, even though he has suffered with two cracked ribs recently. Defenders Jon Flanagan (knee) and Kolo Toure (groin) are also set to miss the clash.
- Only Everton v Liverpool (20) has seen more red cards than Liverpool v Manchester United of all the fixtures in Premier League history (15).
- Steven Gerrard has scored more goals as an away player at Old Trafford than any other player in Premier League history (5).
- Liverpool have conceded 13 goals in seven away games at an average of 1.87 goals per game – only QPR have fared worse.
- Robin van Persie has netted six goals in his last nine Premier League appearances against Liverpool.
- Mario Balotelli’s only previous appearance in the league at Old Trafford saw him score twice in Man City’s 6-1 demolition of the Red Devils in October 2011.
Recent Head to Heads
2013/2014 Sun 16 Mar Man. Utd. 0 – 3 Liverpool
2013/2014 Sun 01 Sep Liverpool 1 – 0 Man. Utd.
2012/2013 Sun 13 Jan Man. Utd. 2 – 1 Liverpool
2012/2013 Sun 23 Sep Liverpool 1 – 2 Man. Utd.
2011/2012 Sat 11 Feb Man. Utd. 2 – 1 Liverpool
2011/2012 Sat 15 Oct Liverpool 1 – 1 Man. Utd.
Manchester United: Robin van Persie
After scoring both goals in a crucial win against top four rivals Southampton, many may feel Robin van Persie is starting to show that he is getting back to his best form, which he has not managed since an impressive performance for Netherlands at the World Cup. With 6 goals so far this season he is Man United’s top goal scorer showing that even when he is not in form he is still capable of finding the net. Usually known as a clinical finisher who is one of the deadliest when given the chance, he hasn’t managed to take many of his chances this season with a conversion rate of 20.7% and a shot accuracy of 62% from 27 shots.
Liverpool: Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling, who has been Liverpool’s best player this season, has struggled to find form in recent matches after getting off to a superb start to the season with 3 goals in his first 5 appearances in the league. But since then he has not managed a single goal and has not really had a chance to show just what a talent he is. Sterling offers an attacking presence that many others in the team seem to lack, providing a real goal scoring threat as well as a creative threat, with 36 chances created and 4 assists. He also has proven that he can be a real handful to defenders if he has the chance to take them on with 55% of his 86% attempted dribbles being successful.
Liverpool have been written off giving, a somewhat in-form United team, a challenge here but with the unpredictability of both sides this season, I can see a very end-to-end contest with a draw on the cards.