West Ham United await in the FA Cup fifth round for Manchester United or Liverpool.
If you’re in the market for a good omen ahead of Manchester United’s fourth round FA Cup tie against Liverpool, you’re in luck! Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford falls exactly 22 years on from a dramatic 2-1 win over the Scousers in the very same round of this competition.
It was a year in which that team, and the match winner that day, were carving their names into the club’s, and indeed footballing, history. The man that snatched a victory late on that day in front of the Stretford End? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Manchester United boss knows the importance and significance of this fixture. We all know that. It’s well-trodden ground that he gets the importance of the biggest derbies and winning trophies as soon as possible.
He also, for the first time in his United managerial tenure, has to juggle cup runs with what is increasingly looking more and more like a title challenge. Solskjaer has been forthright when questioned about squad rotation for this second meeting with Jurgen Klopp’s side in 8 days.
Changes will be made to manage the workload, but don’t expect the kind of wholesale changes that occurred in the previous round against Watford. The kind of changes that will likely happen on Sunday will probably be those that don’t cause a significant drop off in quality.
I’m almost sick of typing this paragraph now, but there’s once again an expectancy that Donny van de Beek will get a start. Quite who he comes in for is anyone’s guess but it may be Paul Pogba or Bruno Fernandes. It’s hard to envisage both of the two most creative players being left out against Liverpool of all opponents.
Elsewhere, Alex Telles can rate his chances of starting fairly highly whilst Victor Lindelof looks sure to step back in alongside Harry Maguire. The pattern appears to be that the Swede plays when United expect less of the ball, leaving Bailly to come in for those high-possession games. Behind them, Dean Henderson will be expecting to take the gloves.
As for the midfield, Fred worked his socks of on Wednesday night as Solskjaer’s men snuck past Fulham. He may be given a breather but energy will still be required against this Liverpool side. For that reason, it seems logical that Scott McTominay steps into the side, rather than Nemanja Matic. There’s a Sheffield United game in the coming midweek with the Serbian’s name on.
Last but not least, in the forward areas Marcus Rashford should come back in for this one. The England man had some much-needed relief with a spot on the bench at Craven Cottage. He should be sufficiently recharged to return on one of the flanks on Sunday evening.
It will most likely be a wide position that he and Martial or Greenwood take up as Edinson Cavani has to start through the middle. The experienced striker showed his poacher’s instinct to get the equaliser in the week and made all the difference with his hold up play at Anfield last weekend. He helped to knit counter attacks together in a period in which United looked most likely to score after stepping off the bench.
With rumours abound that Virgil van Dijk may be returning early to the Liverpool squad, Cavani’s importance could also be further increased with him being the most-suited to taking on the Dutch centre-back.
Regardless of whether Van Dijk does return, Manchester United should fancy their chances against this Liverpool outfit right now. Klopp’s side are struggling for goals and confidence. Even with the odd change to freshen the team up, United’s momentum needs to continue on and into the FA Cup fifth round.
Score Prediction: Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool
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Manchester United vs Liverpool (Last 5 Meetings)
January 2021: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United
January 2020: Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United
October 2019: Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool
February 2019: Manchester United 0-0 Liverpool
December 2018: Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United