Liverpool are out to make it nine wins from nine Premier League games on Sunday when they take on a Manchester United side struggling to even tread water at Old Trafford.
It took a last-ditch James Milner penalty for the league-leading visitors to keep up their winning streak against Leicester City before the international break, but it remains to be seen whether United can put up a fight in light of their recent troubles.
Here, we take a look at three of the key talking points.
As soon as Matty Longstaff’s shot hit the net two weeks ago, United were on the lookout for a saviour. Anyone to spare them the ignominy of losing to one of the only clubs in England that is run in a worse fashion.
He never appeared. In fact, aside from Harry Maguire’s unfathomable miss from four yards, United never once looked like scoring against a side that screams relegation material.
Cast your eye over the teamsheet due to be submitted on Sunday and unless the match-winners are hiding, it’s a similarly bleak outlook against league-winning material.
Paul Pogba only gets better when he’s not playing yet, love him or loathe him, no Red Devil has the ability to singularly effect a game as much as him.
His compatriot Anthony Martial is set for a return and while it is easy to romanticise about a player who famously got off the mark for United by scoring against Liverpool, the Frenchman has generally given fans four years of unrequited love.
Anthony Martial will face Van Dijk again on Sunday, throwback when he sent him back to the Netherlands with this naughty skill. We need to witness this once again. pic.twitter.com/ZHmd52PbgP— Red Devil Bible (@RedDevilBible) October 17, 2019
Even when Liverpool were the underdogs in this fixture, they possessed players who habitually stepped up. Steven Gerrard. Fernando Torres. Luis Suarez. Xabi Alonso. How about Danny Murphy?
Unless a game-changer is lurking in the shadows, the clouds will continue to gather over Old Trafford.
Just another match?
Jurgen Klopp doesn’t like combined XIs. It’s a social media phenomena that sparks debate and garners clicks, but ahead of this game it’s only served to get the German’s hackles up.
One Sky Sports pundit gleefully rubbed salt into United’s gaping wounds by picking 11 Liverpool players yet, in an impassioned rejection of the concept, Klopp said such talk only serves to ‘build a banana skin’ for his side.
That would be a rather weak excuse. All those old cliches about rivalries – the form book goes out of the window, it’s a great leveller, they’re unpredictable and so on – should not apply here.
Klopp's reaction when a Norwegian reporter asks him to give advice to Ole 🤣— Football Daily (@footballdaily) October 19, 2019
🗣"You think you can fly over from Norway and ask me that" pic.twitter.com/okabfBLYZD
United are missing their best player and possibly their keeper in David De Gea, while numerous others are dealing with knocks. An unbeaten Liverpool, on the other hand, are likely to welcome back Alisson and remain hopeful Mo Salah will be in the starting line-up.
They play a side who has lost to Crystal Palace at home, is struggling to score, is bereft of confidence and – truthfully – cannot lay claim to being stronger than Liverpool at any position.
Building this up as the classic rivalry could serve to throw Klopp’s men off. Rather, they should approach it like any other match – well, why wouldn’t they?
Digging an Ole
Sir Alex Ferguson paid a visit to United’s training ground on Saturday and though he may be reluctant to impart his wisdom to Solskjaer, if there is any time to do that – it’s now.
Various reports note that the club are adamant Solskjaer will not be sacked in the event of any sort of loss on Sunday, even if this only feels like a dreaded vote of confidence heard second-hand.
Sir Alex Ferguson is currently at Carrington watching Man Utd's youth team with Solskjaer and Carrick. 😍pic.twitter.com/R4gVU7jAey— Man Utd Channel (@ManUtdChannel) October 19, 2019
Nine defeats in the 19 games since the Red Devils icon was made permanent manager is a sickening statistic. But, as the Norwegian noted on Thursday, ‘we’ve made some decisions that maybe in the short term would harm us but we know in the long term will benefit us’, such as the departure of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez leaving United light up front.
Long-term plans are all well and good. Reality suggests though that no manager, presiding over a club of such high repute, could hope to ride a storm out regardless of how bad it gets.
Plans are for the future, pluck is needed for the present.
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