Premier League returns with a mammoth clash on Monday night when Liverpool host Manchester United at Anfield. While Liverpool will be looking to cement themselves as potential title challengers this campaign with a win over Manchester United, Mourinho’s men will be looking to get back on track while silencing the critics after their underwhelming start to the season.
Liverpool go into this massive game at Anfield in a rich vein of form. Currently sitting 4th in the Premier League, 3 points ahead of Manchester United and 3 points off of leaders Manchester City, Liverpool are on a run of 5 straight wins in all competitions. In that time, they have scored 16 goals and concede just 4.
Manchester United, on the other hand, are currently 6th in the Premier League. While their hosts have a 100% win record from their last 5 games, United have, in their last 5 games time, collected 3 wins, a draw and a defeat. In that time, United have scored 10 goals and conceded 6.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will hope to have Dejan Lovren, and Nathaniel Clyne back in time for Monday night while Georginio Wijanldum, and Adam Lallana face late fitness tests to determine the extent of their respective injuries. Monday will come too soon, however, for Joe Gomez, who may be back by the end of October.
Manchester United received good news ahead the game at Anfield, as José Mourinho confirmed that Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will both be available after injury. That leaves Phil Jones as the only absentee as he recovers from a knee injury.
In the last 5 games between these two rivals, Manchester United have had the upper hand. 3 wins in that time, including 2 wins at Anfield. However, the last time the two sides met was at Old Trafford in the Europa League. On that occasion, the two clubs drew 1-1, after Phillipe Coutinho cancelled out Anthony Martial’s opener. This drew proved pivotal as it knocked Manchester United out of the Europa League following a 2-1 win for Liverpool at Anfield in the first leg.
Sadio Mané vs Daley Blind
Despite Mourinho revealing that Luke Shaw will be fit for the clash on Monday night, he is unlikely to start the game. As a result, versatile Dutchman Daley Blind is set to start in the left-back position again.
Therefore, he will be going up against Sadio Mané. The 24-year-old Senegalese winger has been one of Liverpool’s standout players this season, recording 3 goals (only Milner has scored more with 4), 1 assist and 8 chances created. Not only have his actual stats been very impressive for the red half of Merseyside, but his performances have been pivotal for the side. His direct approach and movement has combined extremely well with the likes of Roberto Firmino and Phillipe Coutinho this season.
While Daley Blind has been a consistently reliable performer for Manchester United, he will need to be at his very best to stop a red-hot Sadio Mané. In fact, the entire Manchester United backline will need to be at their best to stop a ravenous Liverpool attack.
Facts and Stats:
- Liverpool have only collected 2 clean sheets in 9 games in all competitions this season (vs Burton Albion, vs Derby County).
- If he scores, Marcus Rashford will become the youngest Manchester United goal scorer in the history of this fixture at 18 years and 350 days. He will beat Wayne Rooney to that honour, he scored vs Liverpool at 19 years and 83 days.
- Only 3 players under the age of 20 have scored in this fixture (Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, and Anthony Martial).
- This will be the 167th league encounter between the two sides (dating back to the old First Division). In that time, Manchester United have recorded 67 wins to Liverpool’s 55. The two sides have drawn 44 times.
Ultimately, the result of this game will come down to how Manchester United perform defensively. Mourinho will set out with a defensive mindset in order to soak up the pressure and hit a less-than-reliable Liverpool defence on the counter-attack. For this to succeed, however, it will take a herculean effort from the United defenders to keep out the likes of Coutinho, Firmino, Mané, and, if fit enough, Lallana.
What will also be pivotal is whatever midfield Mourinho sends out onto the pitch. If he opts with a partnership of Pogba and Herrera, as he more than likely will do, the former’s positional discipline will be important to protect the United rearguard.
Ultimately, however, I expect the Liverpool attacking unit to be too much for United to handle. While the game will be tight, Mourinho will make sure of that, the cohesion and form of the front three (Coutinho, Firmino, and Mané) will be too hot to handle. There is a reason they are the joint highest goalscorers in the league after all (18 goals, tied with Manchester City). I also don’t believe Pogba is disciplined enough when it comes to his positioning at the moment to offer enough protection. He will improve, but Monday will come too soon.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United.