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10 key things to know ahead of Man United vs. Liverpool – with 19-year wait on the line

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Liverpool and Man United lock horns once again on Sunday afternoon, with Old Trafford hosting a must-watch clash, and a win would represent the first back-to-back league win at their ground since 2002.

The Reds are second in the table going into the game, but victory this weekend would open up a seven-point advantage over United.

Here are 10 things to know ahead of the match.

 

1. Ole on the ropes

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 28, 2019: Manchester United's manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester United FC at Turf Moor. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

United might keep winning games in unconvincing fashion, but there is no doubt that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is battling to keep his job.

Despite all the money spent in the summer, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane brought in, Liverpool’s rivals have looked distinctly average.

They sit sixth in the table having only won half of their eight matches, despite not yet facing any of the so-called ‘big six’.

Defeat on Sunday would further crank up the heat on Solskjaer.

 

2. Ronaldo’s predictable start

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 2, 2021: Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Everton FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford was understandably huge, but there has been a predictability about his first few months back in Manchester.

At 36, he isn’t the force he once was, and too often, United’s attack has looked disjointed and in need of more legs.

That being said, Ronaldo has stood tall and scored two big Champions League winners against Villarreal and Atalanta, notching six in eight appearances overall.

The Portuguese loves the big stage and it doesn’t get much bigger than Liverpool vs. United.

 

3. Who’s out for Liverpool?

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 12, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As was the case last season, what was meant to be a short injury absence is frustratingly turning into a longer one for Thiago.

The Spaniard is still out with a calf problem which is a big blow, considering his poise and calm in the middle of the park could have been invaluable on Sunday.

Thiago and Harvey Elliott are the only absentees, however, with Curtis Jones back in the fold after recovering from injury.

Naby Keita drew too much harsh criticism in midweek and it could be that he gets the nod in midfield over the returning Jones.

Predicted Liverpool XI: Alisson; Trent, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Keita; Salah, Mane, Firmino.

 

4. How will United line-up?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 2, 2021: Manchester United's captain Bruno Fernandes during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Everton FC at Old Trafford. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Solskjaer has been guilty of playing the biggest attacking names and simply hoping they bail him out, but that won’t work against Liverpool.

United need a balanced team or the Reds could run riot, meaning Fred and Scott McTominay are likely to start in central midfield.

Varane is still out injured so Victor Lindelof will play alongside Harry Maguire, while Mason Greenwood, Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes all look like certain starters, despite a fitness cloud over the latter.

Predicted Man United XI: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay, Fernandes; Greenwood, Rashford, Ronaldo.

 

5. Liverpool’s Old Trafford struggles

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 19, 2019: Manchester United's Marcus Rashford scores the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jurgen Klopp‘s side may have won 4-2 away to United back in May, but it came in front of no fans, so does it really count?

The truth is that Liverpool have toiled at Old Trafford for too long now, winning on just one other occasion since the 4-1 win back in 2009 (a 3-0 victory in 2014).

Even the brilliant Klopp, who it is always hard to fault, has been guilty of overseeing limp showings there, with the occasion sometimes getting to the Reds.

It would be infuriating if they let United off the hook this weekend.

 

6. Klopp ends penalty debate

Speaking on Friday, Klopp drew a line under Solskjaer’s claims that the German has influenced referees by commenting about United getting penalties:

“Nothing really to say about that. In between what I said and what Ole said what he said, they had five penalties and we had two,” Klopp told reporters.

“We all know, come on, that we cannot influence refs with things like that.

“But having the amount of penalties that United had before that was quite exceptional. They’re good, they go in the box and they have these kind of situations.

“But we have them as well and got not even a similar amount of penalties. That’s just facts, who cares, it’s done and nothing else to say about it.”

Spot on.

 

7. Salah vs. Ronaldo

MADRID, SPAIN - Tuesday, October 19, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the winning third goal, from a penalty-kick, to makes the score 2-3 during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 3 game between Club Atlético de Madrid and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. Liverpool won 3-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mohamed Salah is surely the world’s best player on current form, producing miraculous moments of individual brilliance this season.

The build-up for Sunday’s game is predictably going to see the Egyptian superstar compared with Ronaldo, but Klopp was typically coy and fair about it:

“Why should we compare Salah and Ronaldo? Obviously, both are world-class players.

“I would say Ronaldo’s left foot is not that bad but I would Mo’s left foot is probably better. Cristiano is slightly better in the air and the right foot is slightly better.

“Both pretty quick and desperate to score goals, but I never really thought properly about that.”

One thing’s for sure: both Salah and Ronaldo have big egos, in a healthy way, and they will be desperate to outdo each other on Sunday.

 

8. Did You Know?

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 12, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané looks dejected after missing a chance during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sadio Mane has been in much-improved form this season, but he has often struggled to make an impact against United down the years.

The 29-year-old has scored just once in eight Liverpool appearances against them – the opener in the 3-1 win at Anfield in 2018/19 – and he has never netted at Old Trafford for any team.

Not only that, but Mane hasn’t registered a Reds assist against United, highlighting how well they have coped with him.

Sunday would be a perfect time to change those statistics.

 

9. Manchester’s Anthony Taylor!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 29, 2019: Referee Anthony Taylor awards the opening goal to Liverpool after a VAR review during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. (Pic by Richard Roberts/Propaganda)

Why couldn’t it just be Michael Oliver?

Anthony Taylor is the referee for Sunday’s match – the fact that he is from Manchester once again makes it a baffling appointment.

On the plus side, he did take charge of last season’s aforementioned 4-2 victory at Old Trafford.

 

10. “And it’s live”…

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Friday, December 21, 2018: Former Liverpool player Jamie Carragher and former Manchester United player Gary Neville working for Sky Sports before the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sunday’s match is live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm (BST), with kickoff at 4.30pm.

That means plenty of on-screen tussling between Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, both of whom could be on commentary with Martin Tyler.

Our matchday live blog is available from 3.45pm, with Henry Jackson tasked with both keeping you entertained and battling his shredded nerves.

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