Liverpool vs Manchester United Preview

English Premier League | Sunday 17 January | Anfield | 16:05

Liverpool and Manchester United will get reacquainted on Sunday in one of the greatest rivalries known to the English Premier League. The Reds have only shown glimpses of potential under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp, while Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils have lacked flair and the cutting edge to produce positive results on a consistent basis. It’s not just about bragging rights this time around, and it’s more than just a rivalry. It’s an opportunity to prove to their doubters and supporters that the club is moving in the right direction. At the time of writing, the midweek fixtures had yet to be played. 

To Win (90mins)
Liverpool 14/10
Draw 22/10
Manchester United 2/1


Liverpool’s last league game saw them fizz out, as West Ham claimed a comprehensive 2-0 victory at Boleyn Ground. The Reds have since edged Stoke 1-0 away from home in the first leg of the semi-final of the Capital One Cup, and them playing to a 2-2 draw at League Two side Exeter in the FA Cup, resulting in a replay. There is no doubting a change in the Liverpool squad since the arrival of Klopp. A club sorely lacking in direction and drive in the finals stages of Brendan Rodgers’s Anfield reign has rediscovered their mojo under Klopp. A cloud has been lifted, a new era dawns. A feel-good factor has followed the German boss into Liverpool, re-energising players who had started to look stale under Rodgers. 

Klopp became synonymous with his 'gegenpressing' style at Dortmund, and the high-intensity ‘heavy metal’ approach was immediately evident in the Liverpool squad. But the side is struggling to maintain that high-intensity on a constant level. Injuries have also plagued The Reds. Liverpool currently have 11 injured players, including the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Martin Skrtel. On a brighter note, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Mamadou Sakho are likely to return this weekend. Liverpool have come up short in the goals department, and Sturridge is just the right man to turn that around. The Englishman is quick and tricky, with a wicked left foot. He has scored 44 goals in 72 appearances for The Reds and will be looking to return with a bang. 

Henderson will also play a vital role for Liverpool.  He provides his team with box-to-box cover, working hard in defence and attack, and his great ability on the ball, including his creativity and sure passing keeps the ball rolling. One player who has thrived under Klopp is Jordan Ibe. “Ibeeey,” as the manager loves to call the 20-year-old wing man is being used more as an impact sub in recent times, but still young and with huge potential. He seems exactly the sort of exciting talent Klopp enjoys working with and improving. Another player who has impressed under Klopp is Emre Can. The bulky German international is still raw, but is growing in stature every week. He has been a mainstay under Klopp, and his size and acceleration make him an obvious fit for the manager’s all-action style.  

Manchester United 

After a winless streak of six league matches, Man United returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory on home soil against Swansea. They made it back-to-back wins last weekend with a less than impressive 1-0 win at home against League One side Sheffield United in the FA Cup. Although The Red Devils have been solid at the back for most parts of the season, it is up front where they have come under scrutiny. 

For all Van Gaal’s spending, he has somehow managed to get United playing a slow paced, uninteresting, dull type of football. There just seems to be an acceptance of bad performances. In the FA Cup match against Sheffield, Wayne Rooney netted an injury-time winner from the penalty spot, and thousands of fans had already left the stadium in what appeared to be a show of disapproval. Their team did not register a shot on target until the 69th minute, and that was greeted with ironic applause. Man United have lost two matches on the bounce away from home, going down 2-1 to Bournemouth, before being ousted 2-0 at Stoke. Possession based football can only take you so far, and if they play this brand of football against Klopp’s ‘heavy metal’ approach, they could be slated. Rooney looks to have his scoring boots on for The Red Devils as he has netted twice in as many appearances. His experience, eye for goal as well as vision to pick a pass is essential to Van Gaal’s team. Man United’s solidity at the back has been down to two players, David de Gea and Chris Smalling. 

De Gea has been a revelation between the sticks and has saved his team from embarrassment countless times this term. Smalling has been one of United’s stand out players this season. He’s a fast centre-back, strong in the air and his organisational skills keep things tidy at the back. Anthony Martial has shown on more than one occasion this season just what he is capable of. The Frenchman has the potential to be a quality striker but Van Gaal insists on playing him out wide. However, despite playing out of position, the 20 year-old has still been The Red Devils most effective player going forward. Martial is fast off the mark, with quick feet and dribbling skills to beat his man at will. 

Probable line-ups:

Liverpool: 4-2-3-1
Mignolet; Clyne, Sakho, Toure, Moreno; Can, Lucas; Milner, Firmino, Lallana; Benteke 

Manchester United: 4-2-3-1 
De Gea; Young, Smalling, Jones, Blind; Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger; Mata, Herrera, Martial; Rooney

Betting Verdict: Liverpool 
Although The Reds have looked tired in recent matches, after they fielded a second string team in the FA Cup third round, players should be revitalised. Liverpool tend to raise their game in the big matches, and with some of their more influential players back this weekend, they have a real chance of adding more misery to Man United’s less than average season. The Red Devils have lacked pace and power in their attack; which has resulted in a drought of goals. With home advantage Liverpool are tipped to the all important victory.  

Written by Aaron Crowie