Failure to defeat Manchester United could derail Liverpool's perfect season

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The current Premier League campaign already contrasts massively to last season

Looking back to October 2017, Liverpool hosted Manchester United at Anfield - Liverpool hoping to bounce back after only taking a draw away to Newcastle United and Manchester United going into the tie following on from a resounding 4-0 win at home to Crystal Palace - but the clash only resulted as a dismal 0-0 draw.

Plenty has changed since that point, with Liverpool going on to finish fourth in the Premier League and falling at the final hurdle in reaching the Champions League final but losing to Real Madrid, and Manchester United reaching second but concluding the season without any sign of silverware. The next locking of horns between Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool and Jose Mourinho's Manchester United is scheduled for the late kick-off on Sunday, and it appears that Liverpool would be left with egg on their face if they fail to come away with anything less than a win, while Manchester United continue to flounder under a manager who was once hailed as one of the world's very best.

Xherdan Shaqiri Liverpool Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool
Liverpool's summer transfers have had a positive effect, while the likes of Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant all remain questionable incomings at Old Trafford

The current odds regard Liverpool as clear favourites, possessing a price as low as 4/7 with some bookies, using the fixture as the perfect morale boost to continue their unbeaten league campaign. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Manchester United odds go as high as 11/2 if you've got the nerve to back them to defeat Liverpool away from home. Our Liverpool v Manchester United tips envisage a similarly posed goalless draw to last time around, where Jose Mourinho conducts another parking of the bus in Merseyside. Just like Manchester United's faltering efforts under David Moyes back in 2014 where Liverpool won by three goals to nil at Old Trafford, Liverpool need to capitalise on a dismal period for The Red Devils, as it's never likely to last long, and failing to do so could be the beginning of the end in Liverpool's attempts to stay ahead of a ruthless Manchester City. Pep Guardiola remains hot on Liverpool's heels in the table, and the almost inevitable thrashing over Everton will only make Liverpool's supposed win over Manchester United even more crucial, piling additional unwanted pressure on Klopp and co.

Always room for a surprise during one of England's greatest rivalries

Many would regard Liverpool versus Manchester United as being England's best ever rivalry, with it not only being a meeting of two of the most decorated football teams in the country, but also a battle between the city of Manchester and the city of Liverpool as two of North West England's most competitive foes in general.

Liverpool were ninety minutes away from falling out of the Champions League a mere seven months after making it to the previous Champions League Final, turning their fortunes around in defeating lethal attacking side Napoli 1-0 at Anfield on Tuesday evening, leapfrogging the Serie A side to send them down to the Europa League in their place. The fantastic performance only added fuel to the fire for those who were already confident that they would defeat Manchester United on Sunday afternoon, and The Red Devil's differing performance in the Champions League a day later only furthered this theory, as the already-qualified Man United side fell to a frankly embarrassing 2-1 defeat at The Mestalla, losing to Valencia, who sit at fifteenth in La Liga with the joint-worst record for scoring goals.

Juan Mata Manchester United Old Trafford
Manchester United and Liverpool are currently separated by an astounding sixteen point gap

It's easy to openly berate Manchester United, who find themselves stuck at sixth with a sixteen point gap between them and top place Liverpool, but the record of Jose Mourinho proves his pedigree, winning the Premier League title on three separate occasions, as well as five league titles in a further three recognised European football leagues. He's always prepared to cause a shock, doing exactly that in draws with Arsenal and Chelsea, and in their against-the-odds victory away at Juventus at the start of November, where they defeated The Old Lady of Turin in their own backyard for the first time since April. One thing that must be said about Jose Mourinho and Manchester United, is that while they don't have as much reason to win, having nothing to lose makes them far more dangerous than a lot of people might recognise.

A Liverpool win guaranteed in the eyes of fans and pundits alike

Fan have been critical of Manchester United this season, with the previously dominating side stuck at sixth in the table possessing very little cutting edge under Mourinho. Former players and managers have only shown the same level of uncertainty over Manchester United putting up much of a fight on Sunday, Paul Ince, who previously played for both Manchester United and Liverpool, stating that the gulf in class between the two sides was 'scary'. Michael Owen, who also spent time at both clubs, was also scathing in his assessment, poking holes in Jose Mourinho's tactics by saying that Paul Pogba would play to a far better standard under Jurgen Klopp or Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, adding that: "if he was playing under a Guardiola or a Klopp or someone like that I think we'd be looking at certainly one of the best few players in the world, but at the moment we can't say that".

The Liverpool odds certainly put them down as the clear favourites to win, and it looks likely that odds could go as low as 1/2 before kick-off, almost matching the distinctly low 1/3 odds for Manchester City to defeat Everton at the Etihad on Saturday. Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher made the same point as Michael Owen, laying into Paul Pogba for his ability to be crucial for France in last summer's World Cup win, but returning to Manchester United as a man who often fails to make it into the starting eleven. Soccer Saturday fan favourite Paul Merson also admitted the shock that would circulate among the football world if Liverpool come away with anything other than a win. It's raised some questions over which players would make it into either side, with it easy to assume that most United players would currently fall short of Klopp's starting eleven - a shaky defence, an uncertain midfield, Romelu Lukaku falling over his own feet up top, and even Premier League favourite David De Gea looking somewhat lacklustre.

Alisson Becker Liverpool Jurgen Klopp Anfield
Cancelling out all attempts on goal from Bournemouth saw Alisson securing a record ten clean sheets in sixteen Premier League games for Liverpool

As for Liverpool, their defence is steadily strengthening under Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson at left-back and Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back, leaving the only gap alongside the Dutchman, where promising defender Joe Gomez was ruled out for a length of time after putting in some equally as solid performances in the backline. The introduction of expensive Roma goalkeeper Alisson Becker has also seen far more Liverpool results with a cleansheet, and whether or not his save against Napoli to deny a late exit from the Champions League was as world-class as many like to claim, he's certainly made a far more convincing effect than Loris Karius, Simon Mignolet, and even Pepe Reina before him.

Recent underachieving makes it hard to rely on Liverpool

The concept of genuine success unsurprisingly excited Liverpool fans, but at the same time, there's always a hint of nervousness, as they've seen it all before and been punished for getting ahead of themselves. Their title challenge in 2014 remains painful to recall, as Steven Gerrard's slip was effectively all that stood in the way of them and the top tier trophy for twenty-four long years. Reaching the Champions League saw as much hope and arguably as much upset in the aftermath, as star man Mohamed Salah found himself injured after thirty minutes of play, and goalkeeper Loris Karius fumbled the ball to Karim Benzema's foot to give a distinct advantage to Real Madrid, who went on to win the game.

Whether Egyptian superstar Mohamed Salah would return to the same level of form this season was a big worry, as it was hard to tell whether he had the mental strength to be as prolific as he was in his first full season for Liverpool, where he took the Premier League Golden Boot over Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane. Scoring goals hasn't been a problem, currently joint-top Premier League goalscorer alongside Arsenal's Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, but it took until last weekend to see more of the flair we'd become accustomed to, netting a Lionel Messi-like hattrick against overachieving Bournemouth at The Vitality.

Mohamed Salah Mo Salah Liverpool Anfield Premier League Football
After some uncertainty, the return of the king has been a positive one for Anfield star Mohamed Salah

Holding out hopes of finally becoming a regular winner in England once again, it's in Liverpool's DNA to continue to thrive for a return to the top. Manchester United and Jose Mourinho were criticised in the last Premier League season, where they finished second, and even in the campaign prior to that, where they won the Europa League, Community Shield and EFL Cup but played in a supposedly uninteresting way, so it's hard to know what counts as genuine success in football anymore. Both teams could be similar in that sense, Liverpool playing in an exciting way but taking no silverware and Manchester United being known to play out dull draws at home but taking some of England and Europe's greatest prizes, with both receiving criticism regardless of either respective achievement.

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In nine meetings, Jurgen Klopp has won three, drawn four and lost two against Jose Mourinho

The far more substantial silverware haul by Jose Mourinho makes him a difficult man to play even in his weakest moment, but it isn't enough to overshadow Jurgen Klopp's narrowly superior record over him. Past meetings have seen three wins for Jurgen Klopp - including Borussia Dortmund's stunning 4-1 victory over Real Madrid back in 2013 - leaving only two outcomes where The Special One came out on top. As for draws, it backs up why we're so certain that this game will result at a stalemate, with nearly half of the meetings between the two top managers resulting with them sharing the spoils.

Injuries could weigh heavily on the outcome, Manchester United announcing a total of nine players out and Liverpool having to start the game with seven missing. Both played in midweek but they've still found time to prepare for such a tense encounter, as Mourinho has reportedly already confirmed that Ashley Young, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard will start, while resting Chris Smalling in order for him to play a key part. Whether these open statements to the press are another round of mind games remains to be seen.

Romelu Lukaku Manchester United Old Trafford
Labelling Romelu Lukaku as a donkey used to be an overstatement, but it's now pretty much on the money

Whatever your view of either side, either manager, or either club, fixtures between each always come with the expected tension, drama, and pride that we expect of the world's greatest football clashes. Jose Mourinho has become infamous for his ability to force frustrating defensive stability, leaving the opposition side praying for a goal. In the other dugout, Jurgen Klopp is quite the opposite, hailing his own brand of 'heavy metal football', where the objective is to outscore the opposition at all costs. Through bringing in his own players and imposing his own style, Liverpool have become a far more formidable side than they were under the Brendan Rodgers regime, where his original gameplan of 'death by football' was wide of the mark bar the one season where they nearly won the league. Football fixtures such as this one are often perceived as a cliche, resulting in far less action than first intended such as last season's goalless draw in the same arena. However you see the match result between two of England's greats, it's hard not to find it appetising to see the eventual outcome when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

What are your Liverpool v Manchester United predictions? Let us know on Twitter at @FootyAccums!

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