The historic heavyweight rivals of English football face off in this weekend’s most notable fixture with the hosts anxious to keep their lead at the summit of English football’s title race intact; but can they finally beat a Manchester United team led by Jose Mourinho?

Liverpool vs Manchester United Preview and Prediction

Fact of Interest:

  • Liverpool are yet to win against Man United in any competitive fixture with Jose Mourinho as manager of the Red Devils.
  • Liverpool’s last win at Anfield against Man United was a 2-0 victory over Louis Van Gaal’s squad in a Europa League knockout tie in March 2016; before that, Liverpool’s last victory at home over their rivals in league competition occurred in September 2013’s 1-0 win over David Moyes’ version.
  • Man United’s last win against Liverpool was the most recent encounter between the two sides at Old Trafford in March 2018, a 2-1 win for the hosts. The Red Devils’ last away win at Anfield was a 1-0 victory in January 2016.
  • Liverpool are the only remaining unbeaten side in league competition this season.
  • Extended further than this season, Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 28 home league games.
  • Liverpool have won 6 of 7 league games at home this season, conceding just once.
  • Man United have won only 3 of their 8 away league games this season, conceding 15 goals (only 4 sides have conceded more on their league travels thus far)
  • Man United’s recent 4-1 league win over Fulham was only their 3rd win this season by 2 goals or more; the others being the 3-0 away win away to Young Boys in September, and the 2-0 away win over Burnley in the same month.
  • Liverpool have scored 70% of their goals this season in the second half of matches.
  • Man United have scored nearly a third of their goals this season in the 15 minutes before half time.
  • Mohamed Salah (2 matches), Sadio Mane (5 matches) and Roberto Firmino (6 matches) have never scored against Man United in a league fixture.
  • Roberto Firmino’s solitary goal against Man United came in one of his 2 Europa League appearances against the Red Devils.
  • Daniel Sturridge has scored 5 goals in 17 matches against Man United.
  • Romelu Lukaku has scored 5 goals in 15 matches against Liverpool, but none yet while playing for Man United.
  • Anthony Martial (6 matches), Marcus Rashford (4 matches) and Alexis Sanchez (8 matches) have each scored twice against Liverpool. Sanchez is yet to score against the Reds while playing for Man United.
  • Juan Mata has scored 3 goals in 14 matches against Liverpool.

Match Facts & Summary

Head to Head Liverpool Man United
Current Season Record Played 16, Won 13, Drawn 3 Played 16, Won 7, Lost 4
Current Season Top Scorers Salah (10), Mane (6) Martial (7), Lukaku (6)
Last 10 Competitive Matches Liverpool 1 Win, 4 Draws, Man United 5 Wins
Last 10 Competitive Matches at Anfield Liverpool 4 Wins, 3 Draws, Man United 3 Wins
Last Season’s Result Liverpool 0-0 Man United

 

Odds of Interest (as at 10 Dec) Liverpool Man United
Odds – Result (Draw = 3.08) 0.56 4.91

 

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Scheduling Considerations:

Liverpool hosted Napoli in a successful 1-0 win to secure qualification to the round of 16 of the Champions League. Having already secured qualification, Man United fielded a fair number of their fringe players in their trip to Valencia. 

Injury Considerations:

Liverpool face a defensive injury crisis, with confirmed injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, while Trent Alexander Arnold, James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne are all doubtful.  Man United remain hopeful of a return for form player Anthony Martial. Alexis Sanchez, Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof remain out with longer term injuries. 

Expected Line-ups and Tactical Considerations:

After a considered stretch of matches using the 4231 shape, Klopp’s last two league matches have presided over a more expansive 442 system that has brought with it goals and significantly more control over possession. While this may be the German’s tactical incision in preparation for a crucial match against Napoli, the system efficiency in chance conversion could ultimately make for a more impactful result against Man United. Either way, Liverpool’s rotation in both squad and tactical configurations has certainly been a huge part of why they’ve managed to establish their incredibly strong defensive record alongside the usual high-ranking performances in shot creation and possession.

Assuming the tactical choice extends to the Man United clash, the generous use of the first team options in midweek against Napoli have affected the likely side expected against their chief rivals. The back five of will feature core players Alisson, Robertson and Van Dijk but Lovren will need to fill in at centre back and right back remains completely ambiguous given the injury situation being faced by the usual options, unless Fabinho is employed in the role akin to some early showings in that position in a Monaco shirt. The most scope for change is in the midfield quartet, but our expectation is that it will likely feature the core pairing of Fabinho (or Henderson if the former is playing at right back) and Wijnaldum to offer adequate protection from Man United’s combative centre, while the dynamism of both Shaqiri and Mane could well be employed on either flank to both threaten the Red Devils rearguard and provide quick support to respond to any transitionary counter attacks.  Upfront, the pair is also expected to remain intact once again, even if Roberto Firmino’s return to form has been far less spectacular than that of Mohamed Salah.

Following a series of difficult matches in which his tried and tested 433 system seemed to come undone, Jose Mourinho has embarked on some varying configurations in recent matches, some of which have been tactically surprising to read, and the results support this notion. Given the resounding dominance of the 4-1 win against bottom side Fulham, however, it’s expected that the Portuguese manager won’t amend the 4231 experiment from that win too much after finally seeming to find a formula that balances both creativity and conversion, even if the opposition wasn’t the strongest they’ve faced this season.

Assuming that Mourinho will seek to diminish Liverpool’s attacking prowess first and foremost, it’s expected that he’ll keep faith with a side capable of disrupting passing comforts, maximizing aerial duel dominance and optimized for scoring on counter attacks. As such, De Gea, Smalling and Jones  will likely start in the core of defence, whereas the speed of youngster Dalot and veteran Ashley Young should be called on to try and manage Liverpool’s pace threat on the flanks. In midfield, Matic is likely to be partnered with the equally combative Herrera or Fellaini (with the former getting an edge due to excellent recent form, even if the Belgian’s aerial prowess has few equals). The front 4 remains intriguingly poised to offer a meaningful threat to a fragmented Liverpool defence due to injury, with Mata, Lingard and Rashford expected to start behind Lukaku, assuming that Martial remains an injury doubt.

Prediction

This fixture’s reputation alone tends to make for unpredictable sentiment, though the dominance of Man United, even at Anfield, rings true of Liverpool’s need to reflect carefully that their excellent home record hasn’t recorded too many victories against their old foe. Off-colour or not, Man United still have a collective of decent layers of solid quality, and some of the most out-of-sorts talents in the squad – like Paul Pogba – are capable of turning their poor form into a magnificent display that typically only gets reserved for derby heroes.

Liverpool have equally had recent questions asked of their form, and Klopp’s back to back away victories over Burnley and Bournemouth went some way to masking the understandable concerns with the performance in the dramatic last-minute thriller against Everton. The facts remain that Liverpool is in outstanding shape overall, proving massively difficult to beat, especially once they’ve scored first. Being top of the table near the halfway point of the season is often massively indicative of end of season prospects, and it won’t have escaped Liverpool or their manager that this season, regardless of other competitions, is a difficult but nonetheless accessible opportunity to win the Premier League title.

To that end, Liverpool’s home record and defence, their recent goal improvements, alongside Man United’s malaise, and the injury and form problems faced by the Red Devils, suggests that it is more believable that the home side will finally find a way to take the points off their historical rival in Manchester red as they seek to stay in the hunt in the chase for the title against their current rival in Manchester blue. But with injury concerns haunting them in defence, it’s more plausible that another frustrating draw for the Reds beckons against Man United.

Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.

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