A top of the table clash between Manchester United and Liverpool is what it’s all about.
Unwittingly, for two of the last three Liverpool vs Manchester United previews I have put up on this website, the sub-heading has been almost exactly the same. Form goes out of the window when it comes to this fixture.
On those occasions in 2018/19 and 2019/20, it was perhaps wishful thinking on my behalf. United’s form going into both of the aforementioned games was patchy at best. Conversely, Liverpool were flying, as they have been doing for the last three or four years, generally.
This time, though, it feels a little different. United fans are hoping that it does go to form for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.
Almost exactly a year on from the last trip down the East Lancs to Anfield, Solskjaer’s side are a completely different entity to the one that went down 2-0 that day.
Manchester United had a few chances to get something that afternoon – namely Anthony Martial’s chance that he skied over the bar in the second half – but truth be told, Liverpool spent large periods bombarding David de Gea’s goal and were ultimately worthy of their win.
That win took them a staggering 30 points clear of United after 23 games and allowed them to start believing that their long long long wait for a title was finally coming to an end. Looking back, it’s hardly surprising looking at the team Solskjaer had to field.
However, fast-forward twelve months and the situation is night and day. The United boss has a squad that isn’t littered with injuries and is far superior than in previous years in terms of quality. Jurgen Klopp, on the other hand, has bigger injury issues and a team struggling for consistency. Oh, and this time, Manchester United are the league leaders with an opportunity to build a substantial lead.
You would be hard-pressed to find a red of a Mancunian persuasion that genuinely envisaged this scenario materialising eight weeks ago. Belief has steadily been growing amongst the absent Old Trafford faithful but a potential six-pointer at Anfield was a distant dream. That 1-0 victory at Burnley on Tuesday brought it to fruition.
The win at Turf Moor probably gave Solskjaer something to think about in regards to his selection on Sunday. Paul Pogba’s performance again made it almost impossible for the French midfielder to be dropped.
He was partnered by Nemanja Matic in midweek but it’s highly likely that Fred and Scott McTominay will be drafted back in to sit in front of the same defensive line as Tuesday night. That could mean that Pogba is pushed further forward, playing out on the left in offensive play and dropping into a diamond midfield with Bruno Fernandes when defending.
The biggest question mark hangs over who plays through the middle up front. Martial hobbled off against Burnley but if he is fit, as Solskjaer has suggested he could be, he may be a better option on the break than Edinson Cavani. His connection with Marcus Rashford could also be key if the diamond midfield and two striker system is deployed.
With a three point lead over last year’s champions as a buffer, defeat isn’t catastrophic in the long term but a win could be absolutely season-defining. Somewhere in-between seems like the logical outcome but I suspect it’s going to be uncomfortable throughout.
Score Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United
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Liverpool vs Manchester United (Last 5 Meetings)
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
March 2018: Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool