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Preview: United must beat the Dippers. The momentum built against Atalanta must be carried forward

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Manchester United -v- Liverpool

Premier League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Sunday 24 October 2021, KO 16:30 BST

Referee: Anthony Taylor Assistants: Gary Beswick, Lee Betts

Fourth Official: Mike Dean

VAR: Stuart Attwell Assistant VAR: Marc Perry

Manchester United return to Premier League action as they welcome Liverpool to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. Last season, Liverpool ran riot at the Theatre of Dreams and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be tasked with trying to change that this season. United came from behind against Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening, scoring three second half goals to take all three points in the group stage match, which puts them at the top of their group with six points in three matches. Two more wins and avoiding a defeat in the last group stage match should be enough to put United through this season.

Liverpool sit in second place in the Premier League ahead of this match with 18 points, four more than United who sit in sixth place with 14 points. That will change before the two sides kick off at the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday afternoon. United need to find three points in the league after no winning for the past month, beating West Ham United at the London Stadium back in September. Defeats to Aston Villa and Leicester City plus a draw with Everton have seen Solskjaer’s side struggling at home and away this season, despite their bright start to the campaign. This match would be a big one to win for United and Solskjaer.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WLDWLL

Atalanta 3-2 W, Leicester City 4-2 L, Everton 1-1 D, Villarreal 2-1 W, Aston Villa 1-0 L, West Ham United 1-0 L

Goals: 5 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 2 – Jesse Lingard, 1 – Fred, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles

Assists: 7 – Paul Pogba, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, 2 – Victor Lindelof, 1 – Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane

Liverpool – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WWDWDW

Atletico Madrid 3-2 W, Watford 5-0 W, Manchester City 2-2 D, FC Porto 5-1 W, Brentford 3-3 D, Norwich City 3-0 W

Goals: 12 – Mohamed Salah, 6 – Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, 3 – Diogo Jota, 2 – Naby Keïta, Takumi Minamino, 1 – Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Curtis Jones, Divock Origi

Assists: 4 – Mohamed Salah, 3 – Curtis Jones, 2 – Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Milner, Divock Origi, Andrew Robertson, Konstantinos Tsimikas, 1 – Thiago Alcántara, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Virgil van Dijk, Neco Williams

Previous meetings with Liverpool and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Liverpool have met a total of 58 times in the history of the Premier League with both teams playing in the league since it started. United have won a total of 28 times, drawing 14 times with Liverpool winning the remaining 16 matches. United have scored 79 goals, winning five penalties and scoring three of them. Liverpool have scored 67 goals, winning seven penalties and scoring five of them. United have kept 18 clean sheets with Liverpool keeping 15. United players have been shown a total of 107 yellow cards and nine red cards with Liverpool players being shown 90 yellow cards and seven red cards.

Tom Chorlton, Jackie Sheldon, Tom Miller, Fred Hopkin, Tommy Reid, Ted Savage, Allenby Chilton, Thomas McNulty, Phil Chisnal and Peter Beardsley all played for Liverpool and United before the Premier League was formed. Only Michael Owen and Paul Ince have played for United and Liverpool since the Premier League was formed. Owen won his only Premier League title playing for United, making 52 appearances, scoring 17 goals and three assists for the club. Ince made a total of 207 appearances for United, scoring 22 goals and 16 assists. Neither of the pair are considered legends for United, and rightly so.

Team News: United could have a multitude of players missing against Liverpool who have three players likely to be missing. Solskjaer will need to pick his team carefully and his tactics will need to be right.

Raphael Varane (Groin) is the only player ruled out due to an injury and there is a chance he could face Tottenham Hotspur. Amad Diallo (Thigh) and Fred (Hamstring) both have a 25% chance of making the clash with Liverpool. Bruno Fernandes (Knock) has a 50% chance of being fit to face Liverpool, which could be a blow. Marcus Rashford (Thigh) and Anthony Martial (Fitness) both have 75% chances of featuring against Liverpool. Solskjaer might have to play either Paul Pogba or Donny van de Beek in the number ten role, depending on the chosen formation. If some of these players are not fit, it will be a massive bow for United.

Thiago Alcantara (Calf/Shin) and Harvey Elliott (Ankle/Foot) have both been ruled out of the visit to the Theatre of Dreams to face United on Sunday. Liverpool will be able to get by without the duo. Curtis Jones (Groin/Hip) has a 75% chance of being available. Liverpool will go into this match with a strong squad, knowing that they are in good form, especially in their last six matches which sees them undefeated. United will have to be tight against the Scousers as if they play the way they did against Atalanta, it will be a defeat for United as Liverpool will not let them get the better of them when they are on top. Solskjaer will have his work cut out this weekend.

Predicted Starting XI: Could a 4-1-4-1 formation give United the power to press Liverpool, create a tight-knit way of playing and use the attacking talent at the club to push for another victory?

Solskjaer needs to find the perfect formation for United to play a swashbuckling brand of attacking football. Attack is the best form of defence and United have the attacking might to do that. However, the midfield is not the best with a top holding midfielder required for the club to actually push forward – but that will have to wait until January or beyond. Playing in a 4-1-4-1 formation will help to strengthen the defence, which is needed with Raphael Varane out for the foreseeable future, packing the midfield and playing an attacking style of football to get the best of everything that United has at this time.

David De Gea all retain his position as the goalkeeper against Liverpool as he has not really done anything wrong that should see that being changed. Granted, United have conceded goals but they seem to be from defensive errors rather than goalkeeper mistakes. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw will keep their places in this team too. Nemanja Matic should start in this big game, shielding the defence. The four behind the striker should be Jadon Sancho, Donny van de Beek, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford. Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the attack, seeking to commence scoring in the Premier League once again.

Match Prediction: United failed to beat Liverpool in the Premier League last season and will have an uphill task to doing that the season. Come on United!

Last season, United were winless over Liverpool in the Premier League, drawing 0-0 at Anfield on the 17 January 2021, losing 4-2 at Old Trafford on the 13 May 2021. United opened the scoring in the tenth minute of the match through Bruno Fernandes. Diogo Jota equalised in the 34th minute. Roberto Firmino put Liverpool in the lead three minutes into added time at the end of the first half, completing his brace two minutes into the second half. Marcus Rashford got United back into the game in the 68th minute with time left to find an equaliser but in the 90th minute, Mohamed Salah secured the victory for the away side.

United will be able to look at the comeback against Atalanta on Wednesday evening at Old Trafford to inspire them against their bitter North West rivals. United have the ingredients to win big matches but they need to learn that determination, get the tactics and the formation right and be able to adapt that quickly when things go wrong, as evidently in the world of football they do, and that happens quite often. United need to get a victory over Liverpool this season, which will put them in good stead as they look to find their way back towards the top of the Premier League. 30 matches still remain and anything can happen.

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

Written by John Walker

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copyright: JW