Manchester United vs Liverpool
Venue: Old Trafford
Referee: Martin Atkinson
TV: Sly Sports Main Event
In English football’s most legendary rivalry, the two most successful clubs in the country go head to head after hugely contrasting starts to the season.
While Liverpool have won all of their first eight games thus far, Manchester United have picked up just nine points from their opening eight matches, and are languishing in 12th position. While the odds are stacked against the hosts, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will know that a win at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon could transform his side’s fortunes.
If Liverpool can secure just their second Premier League victory at Old Trafford since 2009, they will equal the record for consecutive Premier League wins – 18. However, records such as these mean little to Jurgen Klopp, who is targeting the prize that has eluded Liverpool since 1990 – the Premier League trophy. After the late penalty drama at Anfield against Leicester time out, and Manchester City stuttering slightly in their defence of the title, Liverpool fans are fully aware that they will not have a better chance to end the drought.
Liverpool’s record at Old Trafford is very poor, with games recently becoming more of a nervy dogfight rather than spectacles of free-flowing football. Such a dogfight will not bother Klopp and his charges, who have often had to scrap their way to three points this campaign. Their perfect start does not tell the full story, with performances not yet matching those of the latter stages of last season. Their attack is looking as dangerous as ever, but their previously impregnable defence has looked vulnerable at times against unlikely opposition.
Manchester United have the pace in attack to trouble any side. It is possible that Solskjaer could select an attacking trio of Daniel James, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial on Sunday – something that will concern Klopp and co. If they can get into their stride, they can more than match any defence. With the arrival of world record signing Harry Maguire solidifying the United defence, it would be unwise to count out the Red Devils from halting Liverpool’s perfect start.
Out to spoil the party is this out-of-sorts Manchester United side. An already injury-depleted squad received a double blow yesterday as Solskjaer announced that neither Paul Pogba nor David de Gea would be unlikely to play. However, the Old Trafford faithful will be happy to welcome back Aaron Wan-Bissaka into the defence whilst both Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial could also make their returns this weekend.
Liverpool will also be welcoming back one of their stars as Alisson is set to make his comeback in goal for the first time since injuring his hamstring in the first game of the season against Norwich. Special recognition should go out to Adrian, who, after being without a club just a few months ago, has been an excellent understudy to the Brazilian in his absence. Joel Matip is also set to return to the starting line-up, while injury fears over Mo Salah have been eased by Klopp.
Predicted Starting XIs
Manchester United (4-3-3): Romero; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Matic, Pereira; James, Rashford, Mata
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Score Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Liverpool
Despite the contrasting fortunes to the starts of their respective seasons, these games of late have always been cagey. No team will want to lose but expect it to become more stretched in the second half. However, I expect a full strength Liverpool side to simply have too much for Manchester United, and should further compound the misery for Solskjaer.