Man Utd v Liverpool: Match-Up of Reversing Fortunes
This weekend’s Manchester United v Liverpool tie has its most obvious significance in the fact that it will be a make-or-break situation for Liverpool, but it will also prove beyond a shadow of a doubt whether the United we’ve seen under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the real deal or just a fluke. Solskjaer has all but locked up his position as permanent manager thanks to the team’s recent league performances, but there’s still plenty of time for things to go south. We feel that a win here would truly make his case undebatable and give the squad the confidence to finish the season strong.
Liverpool, conversely, have cooled off from their hot start, and are starting to look human again after some relatively disappointing performances. They are slowly losing their grip on the top position to Manchester City. A win here could kick-start another run, while a loss could send them slowly spiralling into disappointment.
United’s resurgence from their bad start to the season has them playing free, relaxed football, leading to a string of positive results. They haven’t been able to create a huge number of chances, but they’ve consistently delivered goals when they’ve been presented with the opportunity. The partnership of Rashford and Pogba has been invaluable under Solskjaer with 14 Premier League goals between them during his short tenure. Their quick turnaround from losing to PSG in the Champions League to dispatching a reeling Chelsea squad in the 5th round of the FA Cup shows that the players aren’t feeling the pressure and feel as though they have nothing to lose.
Liverpool, on the other hand, are playing tense and tight. They’ve been consistent at creating chances for themselves, but have been relatively unable to convert with the confidence they showed earlier in the season. That being said, their defence is still the best in top-flight football, and Manchester will have their work cut out for them trying to get passed them. Discipline and grace under pressure will be the deciding factor for them going forward in this title race.
Liverpool players are feeling the pressure mounting thanks to the ever-present threat of Manchester City leapfrogging them for the top spot. This will be one of the most important matches of the season for both squads, but Liverpool have the heavy weight of expectation on their shoulders thanks to their strong start to the season and the fear of anything but hoisting of the trophy when all is said and done.
Manchester were at rock bottom when Liverpool dispatched them 3-1 in December. Two days after that game, Mourinho was fired and the rest of the season was looking bleak at best. Any positive result they can attain at this point could be seen as a bonus, and it seems to be more like an extended audition for Solskjaer than anything else. Because of this, the players feel like they have nothing to lose, and they’re absolutely playing like it.
They’ve made up serious ground and are definitely flirting with a top 4 finish if they retain their current streak of strong performances and continue to apply pressure on the top three. You can definitely bet that they’ll be fired up to put a significant dent in Liverpool’s title run, and this is definitely their biggest game of the season. Liverpool are facing United at the worse possible time.
Many feel that should Liverpool lose this match, it would mark the beginning of the end of their title hopes. It would place them below Manchester City with the 27 games played, and their dreams of holding the title would rest in City’s hands – not a position you would typically prefer to be in considering City’s consistent performance of late. That being said, should they walk away from Old Trafford with a win, it may give them the confidence boost needed to propel themselves forward and it would then be their league to lose.
Records & Statistics
Since Solskjaer’s appointment, United have been the only undefeated Premier League team and have conceded the fewest goals. David De Gea has been a marvel for Manchester, with an impressive 84% of total shots saved. Historically, United also have an advantage over Liverpool at Old Trafford, being unbeaten there for their last 5 meetings against the Reds.
Klopp is on the road to becoming the first Liverpool boss to finish above United in the Premier League table more than once since Kenny Dalglish. Salah is also on route to breaking a record – should he get on the scoresheet on Sunday, it would make him the fastest player in Premier League history to reach 50 goals for a single club, reaching the mark in 63 league appearances, breaking Alan Shearer’s previous record of 66 games.
We think that this is an opportunity for Klopp to motivate his players into a strong, disciplined performance, and to pick apart Manchester’s still-developing defence. We expect a strong showing from the Firmino-Mane-Salah front three, and a breakthrough night for the Reds that will bring them back on course. Whatever happens, it will definitely be entertaining.
Final score: Manchester United 1 – 2 Liverpool
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