In a game that needs no introduction, England’s two most successful footballing sides clash once again at Old Trafford on Sunday. Despite Liverpool currently sitting in second, five points above United in sixth, the team’s current performances do not mirror their league position.
Manchester United vs Liverpool: Match Preview
Whilst the United revival continues, Liverpool have struggled in recent weeks. Whereas the Red Devils have won nine consecutive games in all competitions, Liverpool are without a win in three. Both were active in the EFL Cup in midweek, and whilst United recorded a comfortable 2-0 victory over Hull City, Liverpool looked woeful in their 1-0 loss to Southampton.
United have also been the more successful team in recent years, winning four of their last five Premier League games in this derby. The Merseysiders, however,e will likely be encouraged by the return of key players such as Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson, whom they hope will help propel them to victory.
When the two sides met at Anfield in October, the result was a goalless draw in which United manager Jose Mourinho attempted to counter Liverpool’s fast-flowing attacking football. At this stage of the season, United are a much-improved side and the game will likely be played more openly, with battles in the midfield proving crucial for the outcome.
With Liverpool’s poor form of late the outcome of the game could also depend on the approach Jürgen Klopp takes in setting up his side. In many ways, the tie will be a complete reversal of the encounter at Anfield in October, with Liverpool the more likely to see a point as a positive result.
Liverpool Keys to Victory
The return of Jordan Henderson for Liverpool is likely to have an impact on whether or not they are able to pull off a victory on Sunday. The captain, who has been absent with a heel injury since the victory over Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, is in line to make his first appearance in three games.
Liverpool are winless since Henderson’s absence and his return is a huge boost. The midfield battle between him and Manchester United anchor Michael Carrick could be huge in deciding the outcome of the game. Whilst United are undefeated when Carrick has started this season, Henderson’s intense pressing and ability to dictate the game could ultimately influence the result.
Another Liverpool player returning from injury, Joel Matip, will be tasked with limiting the impact of in-form Manchester United striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ibrahimovic, who missed Tuesday’s midweek game through illness, has scpred 13 times in the league this season and is his team’s highest scorer.
Although Ibrahimovic will cause problems for the Liverpool defence, the Reds have won eight of the twelve games Matip has played this season and have only conceded eleven goals during that period. When Matip has played with Dejan Lovren at centre back, the two have developed a strong partnership but will face their toughest task yet, dealing with United’s plethora of attacking threats.
Liverpool will be encouraged by the return of Jordan Henderson, Joel Matip and Philippe Coutinho, and United can also be optimistic about the return of Marcos Rojo, who was substituted after 18 minutes in their FA Cup win over Reading at the weekend.
Sunday’s game will be a true test of character for both sides. Whilst United will be looking to keep their good form going and close the gap on the top four, Liverpool will be looking to bounce back from a recent run of poor performances and cement their status as true title contenders. In addition, the return of Henderson could be enough to push the Reds over the line on Sunday.