This is the one. It’s the match that most of both sets of fans look for first when the fixture list is announced. It’s become apparent over the past few seasons, matches of paramount importance for big clubs have been scheduled for the first week back in the domestic leagues across Europe after an international break; and it the same in this fixture last season. It’s been contrasting starts for José Mourinho and Jürgen Klopp’s respective teams, but (even if it is a cliché) form tends to go out of the proverbial window in matches like these. There’s no special name for this one, just Liverpool vs. Manchester United.
The Redmen have not had the best of starts to the campaign. Sitting in 7th place in the table after 7 games, a hammering at Manchester City and a stutter at home to Burnley, as well as some other worrying results. They travel away in the Champions League soon after the match this weekend and like United, have some tough fixtures in the coming weeks. Their side has some injuries going into the match, including Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Sadio Mané. They will be big misses, but the attacking trio of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah can be a force to be reckoned with when in form and given a chance.
The goalkeeper position has been a spot of contention for the Merseyside club in red in recent seasons as both Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet have wrestled for the place between the sticks but in the manor Klopp would have hoped for. Industrious players such as James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum could offer both energy and versatility. Their defence has come into question for years and now there has been no solution as of yet and it can be exploited if United are wise enough to make sure they aren’t hurt when pressuring them. Last season, Mourinho outclassed Klopp tactically at Anfield but the opposite happened at Old Trafford. Even if United are favourites, Liverpool are not to be underestimated.
Anfield has been a place of overall success for United over the last few seasons, and they will be hoping to continue that form this weekend. An excellent start to the campaign has seen more confidence in the United fan base going into this fixture than there has been for a very long period of time. Although, this can be viewed as the first real test for United and with a plethora of away matches ahead, the match will surely make a huge impact on Mourinho’s men. The squad has been slightly plagued with injuries as of late. Midfield trio of Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, and Paul Pogba are all set to miss the match. However, Mourinho slyly dodged Fellaini’s name in a question regarding an injury and only confirmed Carrick and Pogba after the former Everton man was injured on international duty. Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimović are still sidelined for the time being but it won’t be long until they return.
The injuries mean that Ander Herrera & Nemanja Matić should be the defensive midfield pairing behind the attacking midfield three of Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and either Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford (a dilemma that has been apparent for Mourinho a number of times in the past few weeks). Ashley Young could well keep his place at full-back and was thrown into this fixture last season for his first start under Mourinho. Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, and Phil Jones should well be the men to make up the rest of the back line in front of David De Gea. Romelu Lukaku also picked up a knock on International duty but is fit to start. There could well be some surprises in United’s lineup. Martin Atkinson will referee the match and due to the firey nature of the fixture, he’s sure to be under pressure in such an intense atmosphere which Mourinho has stated his squad relish the opportunity to play in. Cards will be expected but no one wants to see red in this red-dominated fixture.
It’s the one that is vastly seen as the biggest match in the Premier League and it’s always tough on the team who loses it. The hype will be all around it, and faces old & new will be all over it. All that’s guaranteed, is that the nerves will be rife from Manchester to Merseyside come kick-off; and that’s the beauty of a match against your rivals. But like Mourinho has said, “it’s just another game”.