Manchester United have not lost in the Premier League since 17th November at Carrow Road, and haven’t come up short at Old Trafford since Tottenham mugged them in late September.
Is there that much to suggest that Liverpool can alter that sequence?
One could argue that, had Jonjo Shelvey not got himself sent off in the reverse of this fixture, then Brendan Rodgers’ side would have taken points from the game at Anfield – but the worrying part of that game, despite the numerical disadvantage, was that they outplayed the visitors for long periods of that game and came away with nothing. Liverpool then, and now, don’t seem to have the belief in their own ability to beat the best sides in this league. In games against both Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Tottenham and Newcastle, Rodgers’ players are without a win – yet, with the exception of the Arsenal game, they’ve done enough in all of those games to have taken three points.
The trend here, is that invariably the wounds they suffer in these types of fixtures tend to be self-inflicted and they seem to lack the composure or the cutting edge to close out points against the league’s elite. It’s worrying: put pressure on Liverpool and they cough-up mistakes, both mental and physical.
Conversely, if there’s one side in the league who can be relied upon to perform in big games, then it’s Manchester United. This season they’ve already won at the home of their two biggest league challengers, beaten Liverpool at Anfield, and walked past Arsenal at Old Trafford. The smart money is on a continuation of that theme.
Because of the rivalry and the derby-like environment, this type of game is more about psychology than almost anything else. This Liverpool side could be better than their league placing suggests that they are, but they need to overcome this ‘big team’ hurdle before they can make any real progress.
That’s not going to happen on Sunday.