PREDICT AND WIN
LIVERPOO and Manchester United’s globe-trotting squads must shake off the effects of international duty for one of English football’s most eagerly-anticipated clashes tomorrow.
According to Sky Sports, their players clocked up 139 000 miles taking part in World Cup qualifiers since the last Premier League action, but all roads lead to Anfield as the English top flight resumes after a twoweek hiatus with a potential cracker.
The stoppage was badlytimed for United, who won their last three Premier League games with nine goals scored and none conceded, albeit against sides in the lower half of the table.
Jose Mourinho’s side, joint leaders on 19 points from seven games with Manchester City, will hope to continue that momentum in what will be their biggest test of the season to date.
Liverpool’s form has been less impressive and Juergen Klopp’s side, beset by defensive problems, are seven points off the searing pace being set by the two Manchester rivals.
They are also without a Premier League victory over bitter adversaries United in their last six meetings, but Mourinho says recent history will have no bearing tomorrow. “These kind of matches, every single moment plays a part,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. “We are playing against a good team with very good players. Form doesn’t matter, the moment doesn’t matter. It’s a match of three points.”
United will be missing midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who hurt his knee playing for Belgium against Bosnia, while Paul Pogba is still absent with an injury.
Liverpool have a potentially more significant absentee, however, with forward Sadio Mane facing a six-week layoff after injuring his hamstring representing Senegal.
United have been stunning so far. Exploiting a kind early season schedule, United have scored four goals in six of their 11 games.
It’s time to find out if that attacking approach is here to stay now the fixtures are stiffening for Jose Mourinho’s team.
Among their next four games in the English Premier League, United faces Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea – sides which will be likely contenders for the title and Champions League qualification.
Anfield was the scene of probably United’s most negative and defensive performance last season. It was a classic containing game plan by Mourinho and it made for an underwhelming match. Some labelled it a betrayal of United’s attacking heritage, especially on the back of three consecutive off-seasons of heavy spending. Others said it was an entirely sensible ploy given that Liverpool had English soccer’s most prolific attack at the time.
Mourinho couldn’t really care less, relishing the fact his side stifled what he called, somewhat tongue in cheek, “the last wonder of the world in attacking football”.
In away games against the Premier League top five (Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal) last season, United collected two points and scored just once.
In his second season at United and having stamped more of his authority on the team, Mourinho has many wondering whether he’ll take a more positive approach into games against his big rivals.
“Do I like to go to Anfield? Yes, I love it. Do I like to play against Liverpool? Yes,” said Mourinho, who has won 11 of his 25 games against Liverpool as a manager.
“I like… the best opponents, but the preparation is not different. It’s just a match.”
Certainly, there is scope for United to have success if they did attack more. Only two teams in the league have conceded more than the 12 goals given up by Liverpool, while United is the second-highest scoring team with 21 from seven league games — just one behind first-place Manchester City.
Chairman of the official Liverpool FC Supporters Club in KZN Linus Naik and Puvendra Akkiah, member of the SA Reds Manchester United fan club, face off ahead of tomorrow’s big showdown between the arch-rivals. The Mercury is running a competition where, if you correctly predict the score, you could win a two-night stay for two at the Wild Coast Sun including breakfast. For the competition details, visit and like @TheMercurySA Facebook page.