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Preview: Liverpool vs Man Utd – North West derby drama

One of the most highly anticipated fixtures in the Premier League calendar plays out on Sunday as Liverpool and Manchester United meet in the famous North West derby

A mouth-watering showdown at Anfield finds two sides in contrasting moods. 

With the day of reckoning approaching rapidly, we look at one of the most iconic Premier League match-ups through various lenses.

Return to Prominence 

Thursday’s trip to Belgium to face Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in a Europa League Group E dead rubber was the Reds’ dress rehearsal ahead of the upcoming clash of titans. 

Jurgen Klopp fielded an experimental line-up at Lotto Park, resulting in a 2-1 defeat, although his youngsters fought valiantly to keep the team spirits high ahead of the derby day.

With a top-place finish already in the bag, the German boss could’ve afforded to rotate his squad following a mentally and physically exhausting 2-1 comeback win at Crystal Palace last weekend. 

Mohamed Salah’s 200th goal for the club laid the foundation for another come-from-behind victory this season before Harvey Elliott’s stoppage-time winner fired the Merseyside outfit to the top of the standings. 

Klopp’s high-flyers, enjoying themselves at the top of the top-four logjam – four points clear of reigning holders Manchester City – are well-positioned to strengthen their title credentials this weekend.

Fall from Grace

In stark contrast to Liverpool’s renaissance after a dreadful fifth-place finish in 2022/23, the visitors have suffered an epic downfall following Erik ten Hag’s promising start to life in the Premier League.

Six points adrift of the top-four pace, underachieving United can consider themselves lucky for being part of the Champions League picture heading into the festive period. 

Man United’s disheartening 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United at the start of December was the first sign the writing was on the wall despite a three-game winning league streak prior. 

It was like getting a heads-up from a weather expert about a storm on the horizon, and it looked like Ten Hag did get the memo, with his side delivering a stunning performance in a 2-1 home triumph against Chelsea

As it turns out, it was a mirage. 

Bournemouth’s 3-0 victory at Old Trafford last weekend brought the Red Devils back down to earth, marking their seventh defeat in the first 16 Premier League matchdays (W9).

If experiencing the worst top-flight start in 40 decades wasn’t depressing enough, United dropped the curtain on a miserable Champions League campaign with a 1-0 home loss to Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Anfield – Impregnable Stronghold

Liverpool’s 72% win ratio in home league matches last season (W13, D5, L1) made Anfield look like a fortress, even though their performances weren’t always top-notch. 

However, it’s no longer an optical illusion but a hard fact. 

One of England’s most iconic venues has recovered its former glory in 2023/24, striking fear into the hearts of visiting teams and supporters. 

Klopp’s relentless effort to rebuild the Reds’ stronghold has yielded sterling results, with Liverpool winning all 11 home games this term, including seven in the Premier League.

To put their home dominance in fitting context, nine of those 11 triumphs have seen the Merseyside powerhouse score at least three goals.

Man Utd Loath This Trip

Things ought to get worse before they get better for under-fire Man Utd boss Ten Hag, as the timing of this daunting trip couldn’t have come at a worse moment for his faltering squad. 

Anfield hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Red Devils over the years, with a 7-0 demolition in this corresponding fixture last term serving as a testament to their perennial struggle on Merseyside.

Second-half doubles from Darwin Nunez and Salah inflicted United’s joint-heaviest ever competitive loss, accounting for their most painful defeat since December 1931.

It gets worse.

Man Utd’s fold in March marked their fourth consecutive Premier League visit to Anfield without scoring, equalling their joint longest run of games without an away league goal against any opponent since the 1970s.

History Books Spell Trouble for Ten Hag

You’d need to rewind the clock to December 2018 for Man United’s last away league goal against Liverpool.

That day, Jesse Lingard’s consolation strike failed to soften the blow as the Reds humbled old foes 3-1, spelling the end of Jose Mourinho’s managerial tenure at Old Trafford. 

Fast forward five years and Ten Hag is on the precipice of dismissal. 

Heavily scrutinised after United’s unceremonious Champions League exit and horrible domestic results, the Dutchman is the leading candidate to become the next Premier League manager to be relieved of his duties.

Liverpool could put the final nail in his coffin, and there’s no doubt Klopp’s side is willing to oblige. 

Breaking Man United’s scoring drought at Anfield probably won’t matter if Ten Hag returns home empty-handed. 

It’s hard to back United to get on the scoresheet with conviction, knowing they’ve netted the fewest goals among the top 14 teams in the league (18). 

Salah Facing His Favourite Opposition 

Salah’s remarkable scoring record against Man Utd is another noteworthy takeaway. 

Fresh off entering Liverpool folklore as the sixth player to hit a 200-goal landmark in the coveted red jersey, the 31-year-old is ready to rain down terror on United’s porous backline. 

With 12 goals against the Red Devils, the Egyptian goalscoring machine is the Reds’ most prolific player in the North West derby, and it’s also his career-high against any opponent.

Ominously for Man United, Salah comes into this encounter amidst a formidable run of form at Anfield, having scored or assisted in his last 16 appearances on home turf.

He is only one game away from matching the second-longest run in Premier League history, behind Alan Shearer for Blackburn Rovers in the mid-1990s.

What better way to achieve that feat than deepening fierce rivals’ misery in the buoyant home setting? 

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