Following the postponement of this fixture last month, Liverpool will feel hard done by, as they have lost ground in the top four race. Although Manchester United are the ones to have fixture congestion, they have all but wrapped up their Premier League game. Therefore, they chose to make ten changes against Leicester City and gifted the Foxes three points. That decision has made it more difficult for Liverpool to qualify for next season’s Champions League, which adds an extra dimension to Thursday night.
Manchester United have faced a turbulent few weeks off the pitch, which came to boiling point last month when this fixture was initially scheduled. Supporters are growing more angry at the direction of the club under the Glazers, with the European Super League providing the final straw. Their season on the pitch has been promising, with the Europa League offering a great chance for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to win his first trophy as managed. However, for the club to move further, the squad needs investment and the Glazers will need to be willing to provide it.
If Liverpool miss out on top four, they will only have themselves to blame for the poor results they have had. That said, they have every right to feel annoyed at Manchester United and the Premier League for how the rearrangements aided top four rivals Leicester City. If the Reds win their two games in hand, they will move within three points of the Foxes, but with only two matches remaining after that, the clock is against them.
Manchester United have recovered 31 points from losing positions this season. Only Newcastle United (34) in 2001-2 have a better record after conceding the first goal in Premier League history.
Mohamed Salah’s assist for Sadio Mane against Southampton was the first time they have combined for a goal this season.
It has been an excellent season for Bruno Fernandes and there is no doubt that he has played a huge role in the improvement at Old Trafford. Manchester United were languishing outside the Champions League places last season when he signed and it is easy to pinpoint his arrival as a turning point for Solskjaer. There will be a lot of talk about the Portuguese midfielder winning individual awards at the end of the season. It is clear that he is already one of the best players in the division and he will want to perform on Thursday against last season’s champions. The Portuguese international has 17 goals and 11 assists in the Premier League. He will be pushing to improve on those numbers before the season ends, to give him momentum going into the summer with his national team. The result on Thursday may have little consequence for the home side, but their talisman will want to leave his mark on the game.
Like Fernandes, Mohamed Salah has a lot to play for over the rest of the season. It has been a difficult campaign for the Egyptian, but he will want to help Liverpool qualify for next season’s Champions League. Meanwhile, he is one goal behind Harry Kane in the race for the golden boot. Although his focus will be on the team aim, the two paths are aligned, as if Salah scores enough goals to get the golden boot, the Reds will have a better chance of finishing in the top four. There has been criticism levelled at the attacker that he doesn’t influence big matches. This is a chance for Salah to silence those critics and play a match-winning role in a must win fixture. Manchester United will have one eye on the Europa League final, even if this is a prestigious fixture for them. That could give Liverpool the edge if they play their usual high intensity style and chances could come Salah’s way. If he performs well in front of goal, the away side have a great chance to get three points.
Harry Maguire and Anthony Martial will both be missing for the home side, with both facing battles to get back for the Europa League final. There was rotation against Leicester, but it is likely a strong team will be fielded to face Liverpool.
Ozan Kabak is a doubt for the visitors. James Milner is a few days away from returning, while Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip are long term absentees.
It has been a frustrating couple of weeks for Liverpool and their players will be determined to deliver a reaction on the pitch. They should have the quality and motivation to beat Manchester United on Thursday to keep their top four hopes alive. It has been a tough season for Jurgen Klopp’s side, but this is an opportunity to remind everyone of their quality in a big game.