For some, the greatest fixture in English football. For others, an historic battle with little consequence of late. In the minds of most, however, this is a crucial game for the future of Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær. With his predecessor sacked after a 3-1 defeat to Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool, the Norwegian will be under no illusions when it comes to the importance of this fixture.
In addition to the questions hanging over the United manager, a number of fascinating subplots surround this game. One such detail is the perceived inconsistency from referees towards United.
Since Klopp complained in January about the number of penalties Manchester United were receiving, the Red Devils have been left angered on several occasions after having clear cut penalty shouts turned down – most recently against West Ham United where at least two poor challenges went unpunished. Indeed, the Premier League have openly admitted that mistakes have been made, much to the annoyance of Solskjær team and the United faithful.
Form Guide and Squad Availability
Manchester United come into this game in sixth place, with 14 points. Despite the strong negative coverage surrounding the club lately, this is the best return after eight games since Solskjær took charge – albeit with significantly easier fixtures than previously. United have had just two wins in their last five, alongside two losses and a draw.
Liverpool are currently second with 18 points, and have taken three wins in their last five games. Star man Mohammed Salah has scored in his last six Premier League matches, and his last two matches at Old Trafford. No Liverpool player has ever scored in three consecutive away matches against Manchester United.
As per Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s press conference, Raphael Varane, Bruno Fernandes and Fred are all injury doubts for United, while Marcus Rashford is recovering from a dead leg suffered against Atalanta on Wednesday. For the Anfield outfit, Thiago is out with a calf problem, but Curtis Jones is back in training and could be in contention after missing Liverpool’s last two games.Embed from Getty Images
For many fans, this game feels like a decider. An opportunity for Solskjær’s players to unequivocally prove they are behind him, or a potential repeat of the final days of Jose Mourinho‘s tenure, when a dismal performance against Klopp’s men proved to be too much to bear for the board.
However, Mourinho’s countryman Cristiano Ronaldo could prove decisive: in his 12 career appearances vs Liverpool, he has tasted victory eight times. And with just three goals against the Merseyside team, United’s number seven will be desperate to increase his individual tally and drive his team to a desperately needed victory. In front of a packed Old Trafford crowd, this match will surely be high tempo, high intensity, and high in consequence.