Liverpool and Man United meet at Anfield this weekend, but will the Reds’ rivals end their incredible run after taking points off them in October?
After a seven-day break, Liverpool are back in action on Sunday afternoon, hosting a United side still struggling to convince under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
While the Reds are strong favourites to beat their foes, the old cliche of form going out the window can apply in this fixture.
Ahead of the match, we spoke to Morning Star sports editor Kadeem Simmonds (@KadeemSimmonds) to get his thoughts on United, Liverpool and Sunday’s clash.
United are fifth in the Premier League – how pleased are you with the season so far?
This team has lost five Premier League games all season and have an excellent record against the top half of the table, as well as being the only team to take points off Liverpool so far.
However, you look at who has beaten United in the league, as well as the draws, and you are left tearing your hair out at the opportunities this team has wasted.
The fact that they are five points off fourth place is surprising and there are plenty games left to play.
There’s no reason why, with some additions this month, that United can’t finish in the Champions League places if they can go on a good run over the next few months.
It’s hard to imagine, though, and for that I can’t help but feel bittersweet about the season so far.
Is Solskjaer the right man to take the club forward?
No, but he isn’t the problem; he just isn’t the solution.
Better managers with better squads since Alex Ferguson left have failed to reach heights required for a club of United’s stature.
Solskjaer has been in the building for over a year and there still isn’t an identity on the pitch.
Counter-attacking the better teams is one thing, but the fact that these players can’t break down teams below them is not good enough.
The inconsistencies are frustrating, but expected given the lack of experience across the team.
Solskjaer isn’t being helped by Ed Woodward and the overall club structure, but many fans believe another manager, like Mauricio Pochettino, would have this set of players performing better on a week-to-week basis.
It’s hard to disagree with them.
Which players have stood out most for United?
Brandon Williams has looked like a seasoned veteran when he has played and his play this season bodes well for United at left-back going forward.
Mason Greenwood has drawn comparisons technically to Robin van Persie and you can see why.
He is a tremendous talent and should be, if not already, considered a first-team regular going forward.
But Marcus Rashford, for me, has stood out the most.
A lot questioned the contract he was offered and the wages, given his goal output in his career so far.
He has somewhat silenced his critics with his finishing and overall play, though, and has been United’s best player in what has been an up-and-down season.
Have any been particularly poor?
Jesse Lingard, purely in terms of his lack of goals and assists.
His movement off the ball is tremendous and his contribution in other phases of the game is brilliant, but he hasn’t delivered in front of goal—though he is dealing with personal issues off the field and that should not be ignored.
The partnership of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof has not worked.
They don’t compliment each other, and by persisting with it Solskjaer is drawing more attention to their shortcomings as central defenders.
Luke Shaw stands out for me and I hate to say it. I genuinely want him to succeed at the club as we have all seen what he can do when fit and on form.
But it now seems he won’t reach the heights of his play at Southampton and what United fans saw at Old Trafford before his horror injury.
He looks shot of confidence and the emergence of Williams only highlights how the position should be played.
How highly do you rate this Liverpool side among the best of the Premier League era?
That they have won the title in an unofficial capacity in January is remarkable—for that I have to rate them as one of the best.
I hate to be that person, but for them to really go down as one of—if not the—best sides, they will need to retain the league next season.
They will set so many records this year and will be lauded for their success—rightfully so—but the truly great sides are able to go again the next season.
For their own sake, it would be a shame for them to be dubbed ‘one-season wonders’ as people will forget that they ran Man City so close the previous year.
This level of play deserves multiple league titles. A dynasty if you will.
What do you think is the key to their success?
This is a tough one because there are so many different keys.
The way Klopp has built this team and the way he has them playing are so impressive–this team don’t know when they are beaten.
That teams in the tunnel know they are beaten, and the Reds continue to back that up on the pitch, says so much about the mental fortitude of this team and their focus.
This elite mentality, to go along with the absurd levels of talent not just on the pitch but the entire squad, are keys to their success.
Who do you fear most for the Reds on Sunday?
But the obvious answer is Sadio Mane. He terrifies me.
He has been sensational all season and can hurt United in so many different ways.
Where will the key battles take place?
United coping with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson is key.
They have been able to keep the front three relatively quiet in the last few years—that’s due to end soon—but I expect Liverpool to win the midfield battle given what United will put out.
Can they stop Liverpool’s full-backs from being the difference makers, though? Can they prevent balls being whipped into the box and starve the attackers of any service?
I highly doubt it.
Finally, hit us with your prediction…
I’m expecting a Liverpool win, although the last few clashes have shown that form literally goes out the window when these two teams meet.
I’m going for a 2-2 draw, in which both teams will feel disappointed they didn’t get more from the game, but United will ultimately be happier with the point.