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Preview: Beating Liverpool is a great feeling but a feeling Manchester United may have lost

Liverpool -v- Manchester United

Premier League

Anfield, Liverpool

Sunday 16 December 2018; KO 16:00 GMT

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Manchester United face the biggest match of their Premier League season when they take on Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday afternoon. United got a good result in the league against Fulham last weekend, scoring four goals in a game for the first time this season, but it was only Fulham, who at the time sat bottom in the league table. With a final UEFA Champions League group stage match in between Fulham and Liverpool, Jose Mourinho was able to rest some players; David De Gea and Nemanja Matic were both rested.

In Valencia, the United team which face La Liga’s 15th placed team were pathetic. There was no urgency, no desire, nothing. Marcus Rashford came on in the second half and helped himself to a goal after Valencia opened the scoring and Phil Jones decided that if he could get a goal, even if it was an own goal, he would. United lost that match 2-1 and with Juventus losing 2-1 to Young Boys, the group could have been won by United, if they had a team that desired to do such a thing, which they did not.

Mourinho has spoken about the lack of desire, ambition and fight, suggesting that the side he selected to face Liverpool would have those three attributes. Mourinho is a big game manager and he can get the better of his opposition, even when it seems like he is down and out. Writing him off should never be done but those Twitter managers have done so already, despite their best-choice midfield looking lacklustre and incapable of playing the game they get paid to do. Mourinho, speaking in his press conference, said:

“I’m going to try. I always try and I want to play a team that is capable to be with me on that desire, ambition and confidence. We know we’re going to play against the [league] leaders and a team on a high but we have our qualities and our potential.

“Even with the problems we have and doubts in terms of team choice, tactics, approach and philosophy – we have doubts about everything because we don’t know which players are available. We’re going to arrive on Sunday with the players that we’re going to have available. We’re going to have a team capable of going there and fighting for the victory.”

Pre-Match Opinion: Liverpool have a great chance to lift the Premier League title this season and they need to be stopped from doing so

Liverpool have not won a league title since the 1989-90 season. Those of you that are 30 or younger may not have seen Liverpool win a league title in your lifetime. I was about nine or ten when they did it the last time. I will be 40 in 2019. Jurgen Klopp’s side were top of the league going into this weekends matches but Manchester City, fresh from defeat last weekend, beat Everton 3-1 and returned to the summit, two points clear of Liverpool.

United sit sixth in the league table at this moment, eight points behind Arsenal who face Southampton before United’s match. United had chance after chance in recent weeks to claw some points back with teams above them facing each other, but draw after draw cost them that chance. Beating Liverpool will not benefit United if Arsenal beat Southampton, which is to be expected, so they will need to string together many fine performances, which is more of a dream than a reality right now.

It is heartbreaking to see United play like this. It is evident that the manager, the players, coaches, board, the hierarchy and the owners are all letting the club down. The club is rotten from the top to the bottom. The deadwood at the club is never going to leave it with those above the manager handing out contract after contract to players who should have left a long time ago. The club captain still does not speak English, despite arriving in the country during the 2006/07 season (at Wigan Athletic). It’s a right mess.

Team News: David De Gea and Nemanja Matic to return to the starting XI, other players likely to be out through injury…

Jose Mourinho confirmed on Wednesday evening that David De Gea and Nemanja Matic were the only fully fit players that he rested from the defeat to Valencia in the Champions League final group stage match. Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian and Diogo Dalot were all absent through injury added to the fact that Alexis Sanchez, Victor Lindelof, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw were already on the sidelines. Obviously, Lindelof and Sanchez are out for the long-term.

If the majority of the players out through injury fail to recover in time, United could be very depleted against their bitter rivals, which could hand Liverpool a boost in their quest to win the Premier League, which really would be a tough day to get through. There seem to be so many injuries hitting the club at a time whereby many players are needed to get through so many fixtures during the festive period. It just goes to show that reinforcement in the summer was needed, even if Ed Woodward suggests otherwise.

United are being run as a business, not a football club. Seeing that is soul-destroying and is only going to end one way. There will be little to salvage once the Glazers have finished sucking the bones of the club, retreating with the many millions which they have taken out of the club, not to mention the billion that has gone on servicing and repaying interest on the debt they fixed to the club, ensuring that none of their own money was tied up in Manchester United. Parasites, the lot of them.

Predicted Starting XI: Few attacking players know the route to goal other than Marcus Rashford at this moment in time…

Romelu Lukaku just isn’t cutting at the club this season. His lack of goals is worrying and despite him still being played, and scoring scarce goals, it just is not getting any better for the Belgian. During the week, reports in the media suggested that he thought he was going to re-sign for Chelsea in the summer fo 2017, which leads you to believe he never really wanted a Manchester United move, which has not been said by the player. However, the media does this not to enlighten people’s minds, just to keep the cash coming in.

Marcus Rashford should lead the line for United against Liverpool. If fit, Anthony Martial should occupy his left-wing role. Juan Mata has what it takes to feed Rashford with great passes with Jesse Lingard playing on the right-wing, where he will roam in a more central position. It is not ideal but with the club failing to invest in a proper right-winger, it is the best that can be done right now. Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera should be trusted in midfield.

If fit, Diogo Dalot should return as the right-back. Against Fulham, his crosses were a refreshing sight after years of Antonio Valencia’s inability to find a teammate in the box from a cross. This would allow Lingard to cut into the middle with Dalot covering much of the right-wing. Luke Shaw, if fit will return to his left-back role and how soon that must happen. Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly should be in the centre of defence with David De Gea restored in goal. Substitutions could make or break the game.

Match Prediction: I want Manchester United to win, however, seeing United’s performances this season would suggest there is little care to achieve…

Manchester United used to thrive in the North West derby. Liverpool had won 75 encounters with United winning 88. 65 of the previous matches were draws. A draw would be a good result for United but a win would be better. When your head says one thing and your heart says another, it is hard to pick which one you want to go with. The head should rule the heart so I see a Liverpool win but I want my heart to be right. United should be fired up for this match. They were in the past.

Football seems to have changed massively and United seem to be in a predicament similar to Liverpool whereby they went into a period of lacklustre football and an inability to succeed. I hope history does not repeat itself, swapping the teams around. United’s players, if they have any respect for themselves, their club, and the supporters, should be fired up and ready to do everything it takes to beat Liverpool. Sadly, in an era of player power, that might not happen.

Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United

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