With Manchester City distant first and already considered as 2018/17 Premier League Champions all eyes are on the second place, which is more than a Champions League qualification spot. Whoever team – no matter if it is Liverpool, Manchester United or Tottenham – finishes second could claim significant progress in their development and would be considered as contender for the next year’s Premier League title.
I think that we can consider Chelsea out of the battle for the Top 3 as the Antonio Conte’s men missed to win important games and even lost some against direct competitors. The reigning Premier League champions were very good at Old Trafford but Willian was unlucky to hit the post twice and United grabbed very important 3 points.
A game about the future!?
Now Jose Mourinho’s men welcome Liverpool in a game which is not about the top 4 finish as both clubs look very much destined to finish in the Champions League places. It is a game about pride and about the history of the most recognized English football clubs. However, it is also a game about the future. A win for one of the sides does not guarantee them a path to glory. Still, 3 points won would give a lot of perspective to both managers and their squads.
Liverpool have been a lesser team compared to Manchester United in England for two decades. In Europe the Anfield based club has managed to keep its heavyweight status by winning the Champions League in 2005 and by qualifying for the tournaments final in 2007. In the domestic competitions, Liverpool are no where near United, however. Led by Jurgen Klopp, the Reds managed to finish ahead of United last season and if they do it the same this year and finish second to Manchester City, Liverpool could claim their are on the right direction.
Jose Mourinho also needs to win this game to keep the Man Utd fans support. A home loss against Liverpool would hurt the Red Devils fans who have every the right to claim that their club has been superior to Liverpool for 20 years. Mourinho also needs to finish second in the league in order to assert that his Manchester United side is progressing and the crazy money the club paid for players are justified. A win against Liverpool and a second place finish will buy Mourinho time and will preserve his reputation as a winner and a manager who knows how to win trophies and managed top clubs.
What to expect from this game?
It is all about surprise and tactical performance. Most pundits, football experts and also fans expect Liverpool to play more with the ball and Man United to try to win the game in the midfield, to disrupt Liverpool’s game and to use the flanks to send crosses to Lukaku. It is interesting what the managers decide to do and whether they change their playing styles for this particular game or not.
If United find a way to stop Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, they would probably win the game, especially if both the Red Devils midfielders and Romelu Lukaku have a good afternoon. Liverpool would need to put either a strong defensive performance or to control the game and to attack for all the 90 minutes in order to get all the points.
David De Goa has been the key man for United on a number of occasions and especially within the last 3 times when Man United and Liverpool met. Commenting on De Gea’s game the Liverpool’s leading goal scorer Mohamed Sarah said to Jamie Carragher in a Sky Sports interview “I remember it De Gea’s save. I also missed an easy chance in that game, but he is great”.
According to Salah “before the game you have to prepare yourself and you see the weakness of the players or the goalkeeper, and you have to try many times to break that and to score and to do something different”. He has also said that Liverpool players are well aware of Manchester United qualities and know how to we play against them and De Gea, himself. “He is a great goalkeeper and this is the only team I did not score against in the top six this season, so I will try”, says Salah.
According to the SkySports pundit and former Manchester United defender Gary Neville “It’s a lot harder for United to play at Anfield and a lot harder for Liverpool to play at Old Trafford, so I fancy United to win.”
He has said he always fancies United at home. Neville things that Manchester United have to get through that first half an hour, especially at Anfield, where Liverpool are a “completely different proposition”.
“I’ve always thought that for Liverpool away from home they struggled with the size of the pitch, despite them not being hugely different on paper”, says Gary Neville.