Liverpool and Manchester United, two giants that have dominated English football for decades, will lock horns once again on Sunday in what is certainly an eye-watering tie. For the first time in years, this fixture will take the form of a top of the table clash and promises to deliver. We take you through everything you need to know before what is arguably the biggest game of the season so far.
The Narrative so Far
After winning the Premier League and Champions League in recent seasons, Liverpool have well and truly established themselves as one of the best teams in Europe. However, even though they won the League at a canter last season, things haven’t been so easy this time around.
The reigning champions have stuttered on numerous occasions this season as they simply have not been able to replicate the insane standards they set for themselves. The Reds have had to cope with numerous injury issues and have struggled for consistency throughout the season. Jurgen Klopp has somewhat petulantly come out to bemoan countless factors for his side’s problems; be it poor officiating, or early scheduling, the German has spared no expense in shifting the blame away from their inconsistency. But deep down he knows his team aren’t as invincible as they were last season.
That’s not to say they are suddenly poor. Make no mistake, Liverpool are still favourites for the Premier League. However, there are chinks in their armour and United will be looking to exploit them.
Manchester United, on the other hand, seem to be an entirely new team this season. After a shaky start to the season, one which saw them only win 2 of their first 6 league games, United seem to have well and truly turned a corner. They head into this clash 3 points clear of Liverpool as Premier League leaders.
That’s right, United are Premier League leaders. We haven’t heard that in a while, have we? As a matter of fact, this is the first time the Red Devils are table-toppers after Christmas since January 2013, which was the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson’s last hurrah. Who would have thought United would be the ones pushing Liverpool come the halfway point of the season. But here they are.
United have developed an eerie ability to pull results out no matter the performance. And it is this grit that has seen them sustain their early challenge. This determination, coupled with the ever-present Bruno Fernandes and a drop-off from Liverpool and Manchester City, means that United may actually have a chance to win it all this season.
What Can We Expect?
Past meetings usually have no say over this fixture. However, United’s recent record has been extremely poor against Liverpool; the Red Devils have only won 1 out of the last 10 meetings between the pair. But Sunday’s match could well be a golden opportunity for United to best their rivals.
Liverpool are in a delicate state. They are far from the juggernaut that tore apart the Premier League for the last two seasons. The demands of a hectic schedule seem to be taking their toll on Jurgen Klopp’s squad and the Reds have looked sluggish and tired in recent fixtures against West Bromwich and Newcastle United.
Conversely, Manchester United are perfectly equipped for this kind of fixture. They possess a counter-attacking threat unmatched by anyone in the division and will surely set up to soak up pressure and then break on the counter. The Reds have also looked increasingly vulnerable at the back this season as they have, at times, been forced to use Henderson as a centre back. There may not be a better time to face Liverpool for Manchester United.
The game will be an interesting duel between rookie manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and established tactician, Jurgen Klopp. Manchester United will certainly be looking to go for the win in order to issue a statement to the rest of the league: Their title challenge isn’t to be taken lightly. Liverpool, on the other hand, will be desperate to prove to everyone that they have not waned. The Reds must show the Premier League that they are still as strong as ever.
We see the game playing out as a tight affair with both sides not wanted to concede, especially in the opening stages. However, with time, Liverpool should kick into action and United haven’t looked particular convincing soaking up the pressure so far. We predict that the Reds have the extra quality and the extra few days of rest to get over the line in this one.
Final score: Liverpool win 2-1
Liverpool haven’t lost at Anfield in three and a half years. Can Manchester United can end their run? Or will the Red Devils come up short against their arch-rivals yet again?