Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United are all set to clash against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at the Anfield Stadium on Monday in one of the most anticipated games of the season. One of football’s biggest rivalries, matches between Liverpool and Manchester United has seen some of the most intense moments in Premier League history. Gary Neville’s ‘unapologetic’ run up to visiting Liverpool fans to celebrate the winner in 2006; Luis Suarez’s refusal to shake hands with Patrice Evra in a response to an apparent racist act in 2012; Steven Gerrard’s red card after 40 seconds on field in his final encounter against Manchester United; Juan Mata’s bicycle kick goal in the same game, are some of the noteworthy memories in recent times.
United under Sir Alex Ferguson era have enjoyed more success than their rivals Liverpool in the last two decades. In 1994, after Ferguson claimed United’s first Premiere League title, a banner was displayed by Liverpool fans at Anfield stadium saying, “Come back when you’ve won 18”, reminding United that Liverpool were still the kings of England football at the time. In 2011, United fans, after winning 19 titles, displayed the banner saying, “M.U.F.C 19 times”. Liverpool still are stuck at 18 as the club has failed to lift the title in over 20 years now.
Things started to change since the culmination of Ferguson era at Old Trafford. Under David Moyes, United received one of their worst defeats against the Reds, losing 3-0 after giving out 3 penalties (2 scored and one missed by Steven Gerrard) as Liverpool almost claimed their first title since 1990 in 2014. “It’s a nightmare. It’s one of the worst days I’ve ever had in football,” Wayne Rooney said after the match.
In last two seasons, United have reclaimed their favourable position against the Reds, winning 4 out of the 6 games played between the two. But, in 2016, the balance seems to be totally towards Liverpool’s corner, after a long time.
Contrasting start to season
Klopp’s side has defeated all the major oppositions in the season so far, which include Arsenal (4-3), Leicester City (4-1) and Chelsea (2-1). In the pre-season games, Liverpool also earned a well-deserved 4-0 victory against the Spanish giants Barcelona. The team is growing in confidence with every game and sit pretty on fourth, with 16 points in their kitty.
United on the other hand have lost 3 of their last 6 games, which include defeat against rivals Manchester City and minnows Watford and Feyenoord. The team is currently at no. 6 position in the league table with 13 points. United were able to score 16 points after 7 games under Louis Van Gaal.
Another concern for United is the poor performances from captain Wayne Rooney and it has raised a lot of questions over his presence in the team. After warming the bench for last two league games, Rooney faced another setback when he was not selected for the World Cup qualifying game for England against Slovenia.
Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson is enjoying a good run and was named England captain in Rooney’s absence. With a stunning free kick goal against Chelsea this season, and the recent rise in stature for international team, Henderson will be raring to go against Rooney and Co, with the star forward likely to be on the bench again.
Mourinho has his task cut out against a dynamic Liverpool unit, in front of an away crowd. United need to sort their act right and Mourinho would hope that a victory at Anfield gives them momentum for the season.