The Reds have gone 38 straight Premier League games without a defeat.
Flashback to February, 2018, when league leaders travelled to Old Trafford to face an injury hit Manchester United, showing their first fault lines under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. For all the spectacle and the rivalry of the two Premier League behemoths, that game on that cold February afternoon turned out to be with minimal chances, one which in hindsight dented Liverpool’s title charge.
A repeat of that this year would be wishful thinking for the red and blue halves of Manchester, as Jurgen Klopp’s side don’t have the stress of an International continental competition in 2020, and also have the confidence of being European and World champions. However, the German’s aspirations of an invincible season could come to an end when old foes lock horns this weekend on another expectedly cold afternoon at Anfield.
Judging by the Premier League table, one would think Liverpool have been head and shoulders ahead of their competitors, and there are few that can debate that. The Reds however haven’t been fault free, committing their fair share of mistakes, but they have been well masked by the quality of the team.
The Reds got narrow one goal victories in three of their last four matches, and the opposition sides missed big names in those games. And the bulk of those chances came through good counter attacking football- which has been one of Manchester United’s strong suits under Solskjaer.
Liverpool’s full-backs almost play like wide wingers, leaving vacant spaces behind them which are free to be attacked by pacey wingers. In the game against Tottenham last week, Heung Min Son and Lucas Moura profited from those spaces on the flanks, with the South Korean getting a golden opportunity to level the game late on, a chance he’d have buried nine out of ten times. The game against Liverpool however happened to be that tenth time.
The front three of Liverpool- Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have also historically struggled against the Red Devils, playing 22 times cumulatively against them but only getting two goals amongst them in those appearances. Salah have famously had under par games every time he’s faced the Reds, and is yet to register a goal or assist against them.
Manchester United’s strength
It’s no coincidence that Manchester United have had a lot of joy in the traditionally bigger teams, getting wins over Chelsea, Man City, Tottenham and a draw against Liverpool. The team is built to defend deep and invite the opposition to attack, with the hope of scoring on the counter with their blistering pace. That was how they got their goal in the reverse fixture, with a thunderous run coupled with a precise cross from Daniel James giving Marcus Rashford an easy tap in at the far post.
“The last two performances we have had against Liverpool, we’ve drawn twice and been closest to winning both. So we’ve got some games to look back at that will give us loads of belief that if we perform to our best, we have got a chance to win,” said the United manager in the pre-match press conference.
United’s top scorer for the season Marcus Rashford also has a good record in this fixture, having scored three goals in his last three appearances against the Reds. The Red Devils almost got all three points against Liverpool and if they can sure up their defence for just a little longer and mark the far posts, a first league win at Anfield since 2016 might be in order.
Feature image: AFP/ Oli Scarff