One of the fiercest rivalries in English football will be renewed on Sunday, when Manchester United welcome Liverpool to Old Trafford.
Gameweek 34 of the 2020/21 Premier League season continues into Sunday, with as many as three matches on show on the day. The second match of the day is also the marquee fixture this weekend, as Manchester United play hosts to bitter rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Manchester United have continued to go from strength to strength under the watchful eye of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. While they still have some way to go before they can scale the summit of English football again, the progress is there to be seen. The Red Devils are almost certain to finish second in the Premier League this season, which could still end with a trophy after the 6-2 rout of AS Roma in the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg.
Liverpool, on the other hand, were not involved in any midweek action after having been booted out of the Champions League last month. In fact, 2020/21 has been quite a dismal season for the Reds, who have made a meal of their Premier League title defence and could even miss out on a top four finish if they slip up again. Their recent form is indicative of that, with Jurgen Klopp & co. playing out a draw in each of their last three games.
Manchester United and Liverpool have clashed twice this season already, with the reverse fixture in January ending in a goalless draw, while United came from a goal down to beat the Reds 3-2 in the FA Cup fourth round. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not have any fresh injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Liverpool. On Sunday, the Manchester United manager will be bereft of the services of two first-team players, with Phil Jones and Anthony Martial recovering from their respective knee injuries.
Otherwise, Solskjaer has a fully fit squad at his disposal, although the fitness situation of Marcus Rashford continues to be iffy. However, considering the stature of the game, Rashford is unlikely to get a rest just yet, with the midweek UEFA Europa League fixture against AS Roma possibly being the occasion when he is handed a breather.
The Englishman should start out on the right flank again, with Paul Pogba assuming his customary place on the left wing, from where he will get the freedom to express himself better. Pogba’s link-up with Bruno Fernandes will hold the key for Manchester United, with Edinson Cavani, who is set to stay put at Old Trafford, likely to lead the line ahead of Mason Greenwood again, versus Liverpool.
As is usually the case in the bigger games, Scott McTominay and Fred ought to pair up in the double pivot in midfield, aiming to keep a check on their opposite numbers at Liverpool. Finally, in defence, Harry Maguire is set become the first player to complete 90 minutes in 72 Premier League matches in a row for Manchester United, breaking the record set by Gary Pallister between 1993 and 1995.
Maguire will pair up with Victor Lindelof at the heart of the Manchester United defence, with Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka picking themselves as the two full-backs. In goal, Dean Henderson will come in for David de Gea, as has become customary in the Premier League of late.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Pogba; Cavani
Unlike his counterpart in the Manchester United dugout, Jurgen Klopp has some pressing issues to contend with ahead of the trip to Old Trafford. On Sunday, the Liverpool manager will have to make do without as many as seven first-team players.
The likes of Caoimhin Kelleher (abdominal tear), Virgil van Dijk (knee), Joel Matip (ankle), Joe Gomez (knee) and Divock Origi (muscle injury) seem to have already played their final game this term. In addition, Nathaniel Phillips (hamstring) and Jordan Henderson (groin) are also on the sidelines, and will miss out against Manchester United.
With Phillips unavailable, Fabinho will once again start at the heart of Liverpool’s backline, where he will pair up with Ozan Kabak. Out wide, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson pick themselves as the two full-backs, while Alisson Becker is the obvious choice between the sticks.
Up ahead in midfield, Thiago Alcantara will sit at the base of the three-man unit, hoping to pull the strings in the middle of the park, when presented with the opportunity. Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner will be the two workhorses for Liverpool, with the latter also looking to arrive late in the Manchester United box from time to time.
Finally, the Liverpool attack is likely to comprise of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, with Diogo Jota being an option off the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Kabak, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- Manchester United to win @ 2.62
- Under 1.5 Match Goals @ 3.700
- Manchester United have lost just one of their last 15 home games against Liverpool in all competitions (W10 D4), and are unbeaten in the previous eight. However, home and away, the Red Devils have won just one of the last nine Premier League meetings (D6 L2).
- Liverpool have won five of their last seven away games in the Premier League, more victories than in their previous 15 matches on the road (W4 D6 L5). Manchester United, on the other hand, are vying to win five consecutive top-flight fixtures at home for the first time since March 2018.
- If Manchester United avoid defeat against Liverpool on Sunday, they will equal their longest unbeaten run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, set in their final 14 matches last season.
- Liverpool have dropped 15 points from winning positions this term, the fourth highest total in the Premier League this season prior to the latest round of matches.
- Marcus Rashford has scored four goals in his last four league and cup appearances at home against Liverpool. On the other hand, Roberto Firmino has scored just once in 14 matches versus Manchester United, while Sadio Mane has one goal in 11 games against the Red Devils.
Player to Watch
In such a high-octane encounter, there are invariably loads of players who have what it takes to change the course of the game all on their own. The likes of Bruno Fernandes, Mohamed Salah and Marcus Rashford are just some of the names, but it is Paul Pogba who takes the cake in this section.
While Bruno Fernandes has been at the forefront of most things good at Manchester United this season, it is Pogba who has been stepping up big time in the bigger games. His presence on the left flank also gives the Red Devils an added dynamic in the final third and a side that has often struggled to carve open defences in the crunch ties plays with more creative impetus. Will Pogba deliver the goods again versus Liverpool?
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool
This is a game of fine margins and it is likely that it will once again be quite difficult to separate the two sides on Sunday. Liverpool will likely play with men behind the ball, with Manchester United having more of the ball than their visitors. However, chances could be few and far between for the most part.
Having said that, the absence of Fabinho in midfield means Manchester United will get more opportunities to overrun Liverpool in the middle of the park. That should, in the end, tip the scales in the favour of the hosts which is why The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co.