Monday October 17th 20.00 GMT
The home team have made a storming start to their season. Strange loss to Burnley aside, they have picked up five wins from seven games and are scoring goals at a rate matched only by Manchester City. The relentless harrying of opposition and the multiple attacking threats have been too much for most teams to handle.
The flip side to that coin is their defense. No team in the top 10 has conceded as many and they have yet to keep a clean sheet in this league campaign. Matters in this regard are compounded further by doubts as to the fitness of Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne, both defensive mainstays.
Further out the field, hamstring and groin injuries to both Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana respectively also knock out another two senior players. A whole lot of digging deep will be required to get the win.
Utd managed a 1- 1 draw with Stoke the last time out in a performance that Jose Mourinho claimed was one of their best in years. Take from that what you will but it’s fair to say that they played with a sense of direction and purpose that hasn’t been altogether apparent thus far.
Had anything happened to enable such a upturn in performance? The simplistic answer is Wayne Rooney or, more specifically, his being dropped to the bench.
It has been the tale of the league thus far; absolutely everything has been about Rooney, for both club and country. Since his explosion onto the scene as a wild teenager, he has hogged the headlines but generally for reasons less pathetic than those that are to the fore presently. In a nutshell, we are looking at the death of a star but this particular star doesn’t not intend to go gently into the good night.
Unfortunately for Rooney, that choice is not his. Mourinho is the man with the power and noting the correlation between fortunes on the pitch and Rooney’s position in the ditch should be enough for him to ease the Utd captain from regular first team duty. This is a pity for the denuded Liverpool as that one exclusion allows for a much more coherent Utd team and one who has a great recent record when visiting Anfield.
Flip a coin
Utd have more than their fair share of big players and they will look to upset a shaky Liverpool defense though set pieces and crosses from out wide. In turn, Liverpool will press and pester like winged devils, forcing mistakes and looking to turn defenders onto their heels.
That there will be goals is a near certainty, quite how they tally up is another thing. A win for Utd would see them draw level with their old rivals on 16 points. For Liverpool, this would be a disaster. They are two points off first place and entertain reasonable notions of winning the league outright, contingent upon current form.
On said form, this column would have been inclined to give the win to Liverpool but those injuries are a cause for concern and coupled with Utd’s new found verve, things are all the more complicated still. Whether it’s Karius or Mignolet in goal, Liverpool are in possession of two dicey ‘keepers, another fact that plays in Utd’s favour.
The bookies see things differently, however, and have Liverpool strong favourites with UniBet offering 17/14 for the home win. This column thinks a draw not too unlikely and BetVictor have you sorted on that score with a price of 13/5.