Manchester United will have few better chances to end their winless run in the league against Liverpool when the reigning Premier League champions arrive at Old Trafford tonight.
United last beat Liverpool in the league over three years ago, back in March 2018, since then they’ve lost two and drawn three in what’s been a frustrating few seasons for the Red Devils..
The opposite has been the case for Liverpool who’ve reached two Champions League finals in that time, winning one of them, as well as claiming the Premier League title last year after two remarkable seasons where they achieved 97 and then 99 points.
United have failed to challenge in both major competitions - since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 in truth - although this year they are currently 13 points ahead of their rivals. They’ve been by far the second best team in the league this season and have a great opportunity to claim a first trophy under Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s tenure in the upcoming Europa League final. In short things are looking up.
Liverpool's disappointing title defence meanwhile has been decimated by a litany of major injuries and tonight they again come in without central defenders Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. Team captain Jordan Henderson had been standing in at centre back before his season ending injury in February, Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies were brought in during the January transfer window but both miss out tonight through injury.
Leaving Liverpool with 20 year-old centre back Rhys Williams to partner up with Nat Phillips in the centre of a defence expected to deal with the speed and counter attacking threat of Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and co. Williams has shown potential when promoted to the first team and Phillips has put in some excellent performances but neither are blessed with pace in a high line anchoring a team who desperately need the three points.
A 0-0 draw after a familiar cautious approach at Anfield in January - when Liverpool came in off the back of losing to Southampton and drawing with West Brom and Newcastle - disappointed United fans.
In that match Liverpool had 17 shots to United’s eight and enjoyed 66 per cent of the possession, they had 16 shots to United’s nine and 54 per cent of possession in Anfield a year earlier. In the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last season Liverpool had 68 per cent of possession and 10 shots to United’s seven, and when the clubs met in 2018 Liverpool had 65 per cent of possession both home and away, and they had a combined 43 shots to United’s six over the two matches.
United have only scored twice in those last five meetings with Liverpool but if ever there was an incentive to push on and go for the win it’s in that inexperienced visiting defence. Liverpool are as vulnerable as they have been or will be in many years, so with their own Champions League qualification under no threat, why not roll the dice and go for it?
United themselves will be without their captain Harry Maguire who up until Tuesday’s defeat to Leicester had started every single Premier League game since he joined the club in 2019, but still come in as favourites to kill off Jurgen Klopp’s team’s hopes of finishing in the top four. Silverware is top of Solskjær’s agenda, but few things would please the United fans more than condemning Liverpool to the Europa League next season.
Klopp’s men will expect to regroup next year with injured players returning and fans back at Anfield, United though can serve a first blow to those expectations tonight. Anything less will raise questions over their own progress.