It is that time of the year again when sanity takes a back seat giving way to a familiar feeling of tribalism as title-chasing Liverpool make the short trip to Old Trafford to take on the old enemy.
The reverse fixture saw one of United’s worst performances at Anfield in recent memory – as Jose Mourinho’s men, out of their depth, overpowered by a Liverpool side that was determined in their pursuit to break their Premier League luck. As a blessing in disguise, however, that result and more so the performance (or lack thereof), opened the door to fresher ideas at a club that badly needed an injection of belief back. Then Solskjaer walked in, brought with him a wave of positivity that has utterly transformed the club and everybody around it – so much so that beating high-flying Liverpool on Sunday is not a mere wishful thought but a genuine possibility.
There’s no reason why the home side should not be quietly confident about their own chances – having beaten Arsenal, Spurs, and Chelsea away under the stewardship of the new manager with the Red Devils now currently at the top of the form table gaining 13 points from the last 15 available.
For Liverpool, this has always been a ‘must not lose’ encounter. But looking at their situation at the top end of the table, as we approach the business end of the season, this fixture has grown in its importance as it has now given Jurgen Klopp’s men a serious opportunity to lay down a marker on Sunday, by grabbing a win against an in-form Manchester United. In any case, the visitors may need more than one point at the weekend to sustain the pressure on Manchester City – who are peaking at the right time and that may mean a more open game at Old Trafford as opposed to the general cagey nature of this fixture in recent years.
Having conceded only 15 goals in 26 games – Liverpool’s impervious organization and an impressive showing at the back has provided the foundation on which the success of their team is built on and one that will be put to the test on Sunday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in his pre-match presser, hinted that Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial will be fit after respective hamstring and groin injuries. David de Gea is set to return in goal after making way for Sergio Romero in the FA Cup win at Chelsea on Monday.
Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk returns after being suspended for the midweek draw with Bayern Munich. But fellow defender Dejan Lovren will miss out again with a hamstring problem.
- Manchester United have won seven of their last nine home league matches against Liverpool.
- Liverpool won the reverse fixture 3-1 and are looking to do the league double over Man Utd for the first time since 2013/14.
- This will be the first time Man Utd have hosted Liverpool in a league match with the Reds as high as second in the table since October 1996.
- Liverpool have lost just one of their last 13 PL away matches. However, against sides starting the day in the top four, they are winless in their last seven away from home.
Key Men Comparison
Paul Pogba (Manchester United) v Mo Salah (Liverpool)
The two best footballers on either side and two of the league’s best footballers in general – Paul Pogba and Mo Salah are not only integral to the way the teams play but also happen to define the core identities of both clubs.
On the one hand, Paul Pogba – the charismatic midfielder who spent his younger years at the Cliff, then going on to prove his mettle in a foreign league, excelling with his national side winning the world cup and now is beginning to impress his style and authority upon the team that is built around him.
Paul Pogba, much like United, is a polarizing figure in football – you either love him or hate him, there is no shade of grey.
On the other hand, Liverpool have Mo Salah – the diminutive Egyptian and a firm fan favourite at the Kop, is in many ways, the perfect throwback to a certain Robbie Fowler. Quick, agile and one of the most lethal finishers in the league, Salah can hurt any team with his movement, control in tight spaces and the nous to put the ball in the back of the net.
A happy-go-lucky guy off the pitch, not unlike the Liverpudlians themselves, who could never run out of tales to tell.
With 28 goals and 15 assists between the pair of them, there is little doubt that the outcome of the game would heavily depend on whoever comes out on top at the weekend.
Liverpool have been the most consistent side at both ends of the pitch so far in this season. But Manchester United, since Solskjaer has been at the wheel, have accrued the most points in the league for good reason.
Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool