Is this still the biggest match in the English Premier League? Even if there’s a huge difference in quality and recent success between Manchester United and Liverpool, there’s a very good chance that the best rivalry in England is still in the matches that come between these two sides.
Last season Manchester United enjoyed a wrong penalty call (surprise, surprise) to give them a 2-1 win at Anfield, their first in five years. The same result was repeated in the Old Trafford meeting, where United have won their last four matches against Liverpool, as Brendan Rodgers remembered he’s supposed to field a team that can score only 60 minutes into the match.
There’s a feeling of importance, as always, but also of something to prove for many people. Rodgers is claiming Liverpool are closing the gap on United, but until they find themselves in the Champions League once more, those are hollow words. A start with two wins is a good way to get there; winning their last four Premier League matches is pretty good as well, with five being something Liverpool haven’t done since 2009, but it’s still a long way from United.
One of the things Liverpool are counting on is David Moyes being the manager they think he is. In 22 Premier League clashes against Liverpool as Everton’s manager, Moyes has managed to find himself only three times on the winning side, drawing 7 times and losing 12. It’s hard to say if he’s the right man for United’s managerial role so soon, but he still hasn’t lost three matches in, and with the quality at his disposal, especially Rooney and Van Persie, he doesn’t need to be the best manager in the world to succeed.
If Kolo Toure is indeed injured, Liverpool are going to be in a lot of trouble. They don’t have another player to fill the centre back role, which means there will be some sort of imporvising going on. Maybe Andre Wisdom will play next to Daniel Agger, maybe something else. In any case, with Rooney and Van Persie playing against them, it’s going to take a massive effort from midfielders Steven Gerrard and Lucas to help the defensive line. Maybe Sakho, who is on the verge of being signed, will be ready, but that’s unlikely.
On the attacking side for Liverpool, Philippe Coutinho is the key man. Daniel Sturridge has been on fire, but it’s going to take Coutinho and Aspas to create problems. If they can run free of Carrick and force either Vidic or Ferdinand to leave their positions, things might look good early on. Maybe starting with Sterling, who played quite well in the League Cup, can offer Liverpool that width factor that will force United to feel uncomfortable in defending.
Prediction – Manchester United are still the better side, even without any new signings, especially as Luis Suarez continues to serve his suspension. But David Moyes is a cautious manager, and will rely on counter attacking to get his goals. With Brendan Rodgers extra careful about letting his players loose due to his defensive problems (unless Sakho will be ready to play), a draw seems like the most likely of results.