It’s a fixture that needs no introduction. Red on Red. The only local derby that isn’t, in fact, a local derby. Neville & Carragher. Benitez & Ferguson. Vidic & Torres. Suarez & Evra. We’ve had some golden moments in recent years (and that’s a fact).
But what about the now? Both sides laboured to disappointing finishes last season and will be looking to make the most of an open and exciting Premier League this time around. They currently sit in 4th and 6th place respectively after four games, level on 7 points. Saturday’s fixture will be the perfect opportunity for either Manchester United or Liverpool to signal their intent for the coming months. There’s also the small matter of the bragging rights that come with victory.
Coming into the game after disappointing defeats against Swansea and West Ham, there is added importance to this weekend’s fixture. Neither Louis Van Gaal nor Brendan Rodgers will want back-to-back losses following promising starts to the season.
Right, let’s get this out of the way.
Technically, Liverpool are the bigger club when measured solely by the number of major trophies won. Their total of 18 league titles, 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, 5 European Cups and 3 UEFA Cups amount to 41 major honours. Manchester United’s 20 league titles, 11 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 3 European Cups and 1 Cup Winners’ Cup leaves them just short of their Merseyside rivals on 39 major honours. If only it was that simple. 13 of United’s 20 league titles have come since Liverpool’s last league title win in 1990.
The debate goes on. Scrap it out amongst yourselves.
Whatever ancient history dictates, the Red Devils have had the upper hand of late, especially when it comes to silverware. The all-time results stand at 77-51-64 in favour of Manchester United, winning 6 of the last 10 meetings. That said, phenomenal away days for Liverpool from 2009 and 2014 will live long in the memory.
With no red cards issued in this fixture in the Premier League era until 2007, there have been an astonishing 10 dismissals in the 20 games since. It’s a feisty affair.
In typical Louis Van Gaal fashion, we are to be kept waiting on whether David De Gea will make his long awaited return between the sticks this weekend. The Dutchman will delay the decision on whether to reinstate the want-away ‘keeper until his final training session. LVG dropped the Spaniard after questioning his frame of mind, but stand-in Sergio Romero has performed admirably, despite conceding twice in the defeat in South Wales. With the transfer window shut and De Gea still a United player, it would be hard to ignore his talent and consistently omit him from the starting XI.
As for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool, they are still sweating on the fitness of Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana. The Liverpool captain has reportedly responded positively to treatment on a heel injury, whilst Lallana is still an absentee following a minor thigh problem. The duo remain doubts, having declared themselves unavailable for international duty and remaining at Melwood for treatment. Philippe Coutinho is suspended after he was given his marching orders against West Ham.
Wayne Rooney – Despite having England’s record goal scorer in their midst, it’s Anthony Martial who is the man of the moment in Manchester. After joining from Monaco on deadline day in a £36m move, the 19-year-old became the world’s most expensive teenage footballer and United’s new number 9. No pressure, kid. The United faithful will be curious as to whether Van Gaal will throw the Frenchman in at the deep end against Liverpool, but will also have a keen eye on the involvement of their skipper, Wayne Rooney. Rooney has faced criticism this campaign having failed to notch in the Premier League thus far. Lacklustre displays have drawn negative attention, and his record against Liverpool (5 goals in 20 appearances) leaves much to be desired. Martial’s inclusion could allow Rooney to drop a little deeper and rediscover his form in a United shirt. After breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s record in midweek, the scouser’s confidence should be sky high, and he will back himself to get his domestic season up and running this weekend. He could be crucial if United are to triumph.
Brendan Rodgers – Brendan won’t necessarily have a great deal of influence on the pitch, but he has a key role to play before a ball is kicked. Winning seven points from nine, with no goals conceded, his Liverpool side had been one of the teams to watch based on the fledgling Premier League table. However, it all started to unravel at home to West Ham. The unpredictable Hammers inflicted a 3-0 humiliation on the Reds in their own back yard. It had gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, with the typically solid Liverpool back line (and Dejan Lovren) all at sea for the three goals. With star man Philippe Coutinho seeing red early in the second half, it was a disastrous weekend for Liverpool. It’s up to the gaffer to sort things out for the game at Old Trafford on Saturday evening. Rodgers has some big decisions to make. Does he stick with a flat back-four, or do as he did in the second half of the West Ham game and opt for three at the back? Against the likes of Depay, Mata and Rooney, his side could be left exposed. Who slots in at number 10? Coutinho has been electric so far this season, can Jordan Ibe fill his boots, or will Roberto Firmino be called upon to provide the much needed creativity down the middle? One thing’s for sure, if Liverpool are to come away with anything, Brendan Rodgers has to get his tactics spot on.
I think that Rodgers will have sorted his side out during the international break. He’ll be hoping that the West Ham game was a blip and his defenders will be back to their usual assured selves. Bar a five minute spell at Swansea, LVG’s men haven’t been overly leaky themselves this season. With the potential return of David De Gea, both sides could be tough to break down. Couple Coutinho’s absence with a debut for the rookie Martial and we may not be blessed with goals.
Manchester United 0-0 Liverpool
I hope I’m wrong. I hate nil nils.