Liverpool vs. Manchester United: history of the tape, tactical battle, predictions

The rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United has been quiet in recent years due to Jurgen Klopp’s side dominance but United have returned to their best this season and are at the top of the Premier League. She is looking for her first title since 2013 and looks well positioned for it. Not only that, but if Man United win they could do something that not so long ago seemed impossible: they are six points ahead of defending champions Liverpool and seven points over previous champions Manchester City.

Oh, and if Sunday’s league game wasn’t enough, Man United will host Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup a week later on January 24th. (Stream LIVE only on ESPN +, USA.)

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However, all roads to fame lead through a trip to Anfield, where Liverpool have not lost a league game since May 2017 – a run of 67 games without a loss. (Sunday also marks four years since Man United last won.) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still looking for his maiden win against Liverpool after drawing twice and losing twice in four attempts. Will the duel between second and first place in the Premier League on Sunday be the end of both series?

ESPN reporters prepare you for the weekend’s game. Here’s what you need to know.

Jump to: Tale of tape | Tactical battle | Predictions

Tale of the Tape: Who Has the Advantage?


Alisson is currently one of the best goalkeepers in the world (2nd place in FC 100 2020) but is not supported in Liverpool by the ever-changing backline in front of him. The Brazilian sits next to his compatriot Ederson As the Premier League’s best striker, he’s only conceded two goals in the last four games – Liverpool’s fights have been at the other end of the field.

Over at United David de Gea‘s form has stabilized after his jitters last season. He was holding a clean sheet of paper Burnley last time and held back late Aston Villa Increase in United’s 2-1 win on New Years Day.

Edge: Liverpool. At the moment Alisson is the stronger goalkeeper, but none of them are at their best.


Liverpool’s backline is shaky. Without the injured duo Virgil van Dijk and Joe GomezLiverpool have done it admirably at the back, with fringe players, midfielders out of position and young players learning prematurely on the job in the top division. But Joel Matip there is still an injury doubt for the top game on Sunday and the missed group training on Wednesday; If he’s not available, Liverpool are likely to score a four-goal with two midfielders playing in the center-back instead.

Jordan Henderson and Fabinho I filled out there beforehand together with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson at the full-back but that leaves Liverpool higher up the field – it just solves one problem by creating another. Matips fitness is the key for Liverpool here, but Jurgen Klopp could still give Nate Phillips or Rhys Williams a chance to impress.

United’s back four is a little quieter. Eric Bailly has been in great shape since returning to the first team and works well with the captain Harry Maguire. Victor Lindelof is struggling with a back problem, so Bailly will likely start during that time Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw will start with a full back.

Edge: Manchester United. With Liverpool’s injuries, United offers a calmer outlook.



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Liverpool’s midfield line-up depends on who comes in at the back but they still have some exciting opportunities with Thiago. James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson and Curtis Jones everything available. Naby Keita was also not in training at the beginning of the week: If Henderson plays in defense alongside Fabinho, Liverpool should start with Milner, Thiago and Wijnaldum in the middle three.

United monitor Nemanja MaticFitness after being sent off late in United’s 1-0 win at Burnley, but they have Fred, Scott McTominay and one rejuvenated Paul Pogba everything fits. Those three could start at Anfield, although Solskjaer prefers to play two central midfielders. With doubts about Martial’s fitness, he was able to move Pogba forward, which worked so well against Burnley earlier in the week: Pogba scored the winning goal on Tuesday and showed his best performance for United this season.

Edge. Liverpool … easy.


Liverpool’s top three are still the best in the Premier League either Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino the trio that fired them to the title last season. They clicked beautifully on their 7-0 demolition of Crystal palace on December 19, but Liverpool have only scored one goal in their last three league games when Mane scored in a 1-1 draw with West Brom on December 27. Firmino scored twice against Palace but has only five in 17 games this season and three assists, so there are concerns.

They’ll look from the bank Takumi Minamino, Divock orig and Xherdan Shaqiri for the impact with Diogo iota injured.

United has scored one-goal wins to get to the top of the table and is sweating on the fitness of Anthony Martial after hobbling against Burnley. Marcus Rashford remains a threat from the flank while Edison Cavani has also made good life at United. But their captain is still there Bruno Fernandes. He scored the winner against Aston Villa in a 2-1 win on New Year’s Day and is sixth in the league on xG with 9.18 and second on xA with 4.46.

Edge: Liverpool. The Reds are still at the top of the league in xG (expected goals, which measure the quality of scoring chances) and xA (expected assists, which is the likelihood of a pass becoming a support) and have a quieter, more deadly front three. Although Fernandes changed United’s attack the year he was at Old Trafford and will cause Liverpool’s defense problems.


Jürgen Klopp has won a Champions League and a Premier League in the last two seasons, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not yet won silver at United. But Solskjaer confused the naysayers by leading United to the top of the league for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson took office. United’s coach has yet to book one win against Klopp, with two draws and two defeats, so he must do whatever he can to lead his United side to an important win on Sunday.

Edge: Liverpool. – Tom Hamilton

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Tactical battle

Manchester United and Solskjaer would likely take a point on Sunday based on their position in the table, but there is also the possibility of winning at Anfield for the first time since 2016. United haven’t lost away to Anfield since their last Premier League trip almost a year ago and Klopp has selection problems to resolve before the weekend.

Without Van Dijk, Gomez and possibly Matip, Klopp could be forced to have midfielders Fabinho and Henderson at the center of his defense. And without two players who are usually guaranteed to start a big game in midfield, Klopp’s team will have to reshuffle this area as well.

Even though his team has flown in the last two years, Klopp was rather cautious in a direct duel with Solskjaer’s United. There have been instances when United seemed destined for a humiliating defeat, only the game was tight and worn out. Klopp, like Pep Guardiola, will be concerned about United’s ability to counter-attack quickly in December and that could mean they are lagging behind more than in any other game.

Solskjaer has picked a five-man defense in his last two games with Liverpool and he could do so again. He has the staff to deal with Maguire, Lindelof, Bailly. Axel Tuanzebe and even Shaw is available to fill the three roles at the center of defense; Shaw, Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles are all able to play as full-backs.

Solskjaer will know all about the threat from the top three spots in Liverpool, but he will also be wary as full-backs Robertson and Alexander-Arnold run past his big men and find space to move forward. However, one downside to Henderson as a provisional center-back is that he can’t attack the full-backs as well as they’d like because he’s not in midfield to cover the space behind them.



Craig Burley says Manchester United have surprised him so far but don’t see them as favorites for the title.

Solskjaer meanwhile has to watch out for Alexander-Arnold, who swings flanks towards Wan-Bissaka early on because he does not always defend his back post as well as he could. Alexander-Arnold’s delivery in such situations is on point and Wan-Bissaka has to be careful not to switch off and lose runners who want to use the space behind them.

Despite their injury problems, Liverpool have plenty of reasons to be confident, especially with Salah, Mane and Firmino fit and not losing any more league games at Anfield. United have made great strides since their 2-0 defeat in February 2020 and it is said that only six of the starters are guaranteed to start again on Sunday that day.

Liverpool v Manchester United in the Klopp / Solskjaer era often seemed like a game no one wants to lose rather than one they are dying to win. Neither manager will tell in advance, but given Liverpool injuries and United’s recent record at Anfield, a draw could suit anyone.


Liverpool 2, Manchester United 2. Cross your fingers for action-packed, fluid play, but these are usually cage matters. Expect Liverpool to have most of the ball possession, but United hit them on the counter attack and take a valuable point at Anfield. – Tom Hamilton

Liverpool 1, Manchester United 1. Another close game nobody wants to lose. – Rob Dawson

Liverpool 1, Manchester United 2. Liverpool’s unbeaten 67-game run at Anfield in the Premier League has to end at some point, and United heads there on Sunday in shape and with confidence. In the absence of key defenders, Liverpool will find it difficult to contain United’s attacking players. So be ready when the league leaders get a big win. – Mark Ogden

Liverpool 1, Manchester United 1. Liverpool are the better side but United are in better shape. The points are shared. – James Olley

Liverpool 1, Manchester United 0. Man United are in good shape but Liverpool’s extra days off since their last game (against Aston Villa in the FA Cup a week ago) should make all the difference. – Gave Marcotti

Liverpool 2, Manchester United 1. The champions are masters of performance in these big games, and they will do it again this Sunday. United will compete for their individual brilliance but overall I think Liverpool’s collective strength will be too much for Solskjaer’s men. – Julien Laurens

Liverpool 2, Manchester United 1. At some point in the near or distant future, United will lose another close game. Might as well be at Anfield against a team that has had time to stew over its disappointing holiday results (and has already frustrated Villa). – Bill Connelly

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