One of the age-old rivalries of English football will take centre stage on Thursday night as Manchester United play hosts to Liverpool at Old Trafford.
As we approach the end of the 2020/21 season, fixtures in the Premier League continue to come thick and fast. Manchester United will be in action for a second time in two days as they gear up to take on arch-rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on Thursday night. The two teams were initially scheduled to play ten days ago but the fixture was postponed due to the fan protests at the Theatre of Dreams against the Glazers.
Hastily rearranged, the game has been crammed into the schedule in a way such that Manchester United have to play four games in the space of a week, starting from their last Thursday’s trip to AS Roma, followed by league games against Aston Villa and Leicester City, which they won and lost respectively, before getting set to face the outgoing Premier League champions.
Liverpool, meanwhile, brought an end to their three-game winless run across all competitions when they defeated Southampton 2-0 at Anfield last weekend. The result meant that they stayed in contention for a top four finish as they are seven points behind Chelsea in fourth with a game in hand over the Blues. A win this midweek would further bolster their chances as we enter the final phase of the 2020/21 campaign.
Manchester United and Liverpool have already clashed twice this season, with the reverse fixture in the league ending in a draw while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men triumphed over Jurgen Klopp’s brigade in the FA Cup. Ahead of their latest meeting on Thursday night at Old Trafford, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 12, 2021
Manchester United will once again be without the services of captain and key defender Harry Maguire, who picked up an ankle injury against Aston Villa at the weekend. In addition, Anthony Martial, Daniel James and Phil Jones remain unavailable for selection when Liverpool come visiting.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come in for criticism from some quarters for making as many as ten changes to field a largely second-string side against Leicester City on Tuesday night. For Liverpool’s visit though, the Norwegian tactician ought to name his strongest XI, hoping to pick up a vital win over their arch-rivals.
As such, Dean Henderson ought to return in goal, replacing David de Gea, while there will be as many as three changes in defence with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw all returning in place of Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe and Alex Telles, respectively. Eric Bailly ought to be one of the few players that holds on to his place in the lineup.
Moving into the middle of the park, Fred and Scott McTominay are certainties to return, with Solskjaer sticking with the duo for big games. They will be hoping to keep Thiago Alcantara quiet in midfield. Bruno Fernandes, meanwhile, ought to return to the side, donning the creative mantle from the No. 10 role.
Paul Pogba should return to the field after not being involved at all against Leicester. The Frenchman ought to start out on the left-wing while Marcus Rashford gets the nod on the right flank where he will look to make darting runs in behind the Liverpool backline. Edinson Cavani should feature as the lone striker ahead of Mason Greenwood, despite the youngster’s impressive display against the Foxes.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Rashford, Fernandes, Pogba; Cavani
Liverpool, meanwhile, will have to do make do without the trio of Ozan Kabak, James Milner and Naby Keita yet again. Along with them, the likes of Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson and Virgil van Dijk all remain sidelined for the Reds, along with January signing Ben Davies.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 11, 2021
Jurgen Klopp ought to set his team up in his preferred 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Alisson Becker. With no Kabak yet again, the German tactician is likely to back the defensive partnership of Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams yet again after the pair managed a clean sheet against the Saints. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are obvious starters as the full-backs and they will also act as the Reds’ primary creative outlets.
Fabinho ought to be stationed in the middle of the park from where he can completely negate the influence of Bruno Fernandes, cutting out Manchester United’s main chance-creator. He will have support in the middle of the park from Georginio Wijnaldum and Thiago Alcantara, who scored his first Liverpool goal against the Saints last time out.
Moving into the attacking third of the pitch, there is likely to be a solitary change with Roberto Firmino set to be rotated in for Diogo Jota, who underwhelmed yet again versus Southampton. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will be the Reds’ biggest attacking threats against Manchester United.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Williams, Robertson; Thiago, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.61
- Manchester United to win @ 2.90
- Manchester United have lost just one of their last 15 home games against Liverpool in all competitions (W10 D4), and are unbeaten in their last eight since a 0-3 loss in March 2014.
- Liverpool haven’t lost consecutive games against Manchester United in all competitions since a run of four between 2014/2016, with the Reds losing 3-2 at Old Trafford in the FA Cup in January.
- Manchester United have avoided defeat in both meetings with Liverpool in all competitions this season (W1 D1) – the last time they faced Liverpool as many as three times in a season without losing any was in 1998-99 (W2 D1), with this the eighth campaign they’ve met more than twice since then.
- Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp has managed away at Man Utd without ever winning more times than any other opponent in his managerial career (6 – D4 L2).
- Marcus Rashford has been involved in five goals in his last four games in all competitions for Manchester United against Liverpool at Old Trafford, scoring four and assisting one.
Player to Watch
Edinson Cavani is the first Man United No.7 to score 15 goals in a season since Cristiano Ronaldo.
The curse is broken 🏹 pic.twitter.com/cvW8KLkvEf
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 11, 2021
Time and again when Manchester United have been in a tricky situation this season, the veteran forward has stepped up and delivered in front of goal, making himself an invaluable addition to the side. So, it did not come as a surprise when the Red Devils handed Edinson Cavani a one-year extension earlier this week, keeping him at the club till the summer of 2022.
In 35 games across all competitions, the 34-year-old has produced a more than respectable tally of 15 goals and 5 assists. However, it’s not just goals that Cavani brings to the table, with his movement in the final third being crucial to opening up spaces while his link-up play can be par excellence as well. Going up against a rather inexperienced Liverpool backline comprising of Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, the Uruguayan could be in for a field day.
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool
Manchester United may be coming into the game on the back of a defeat but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rested pretty much his entire first-choice starting XI, which should keep them relatively fresher despite this being their third match in four days. Liverpool managed to end their winless run but Jurgen Klopp’s men did have problems against Southampton at the weekend and will be in for a much sterner challenge at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils haven’t had the best of records at home this season but given the collective form of their attackers in Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, not to forget Mason Greenwood, they ought to have the edge on Thursday, especially with Liverpool lacking experience in their centre-back pairing. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts a 2-1 win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co. denting their rivals hopes of a top four finish.