Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is yet to beat rivals Manchester United in a Premier League game since taking over as Reds boss just over three years ago in October 2015. The German has beaten them once so far, with that victory coming at Anfield in the first leg of a Europa League tie back in early 2016. But three points from a clash with the Old Trafford club still eludes him.
His first clash with United came a few months after he replaced Brendan Rodgers as manager and hopes were high that he could steer his new team to victory against Louis van Gaal’s men. But the Dutchman came to Anfield with a game plan and his players stuck to it as they looked to avoid defeat. A late Wayne Rooney goal gave them an undeserved win, however, and they went away from the game with the spoils.
Klopp soon had a chance to gain a measure of revenge when the two sides were drawn to face each other in the last sixteen of the Europa League just under two months later and he saw his side run out deserving 2-0 winners in the first leg thanks to a Daniel Sturridge penalty and a second-half strike from Roberto Firmino. It was the least Liverpool deserved and they had the chances to make the tie more comfortable. The second leg at Old Trafford saw Klopp’s side go behind to a penalty by Anthony Martial midway through the first-half, but a superb solo goal by Philippe Coutinho restored Liverpool’s two goal cushion and added a priceless away goal. There was no coming back for United and Liverpool went through the quarter-finals of the competition.
Three Premier League draws followed that clash in continental competition, with two stalemates at Anfield sandwiching an entertaining 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the 2016/17 season. A penalty by James Milner gave Liverpool the lead and it looked like the points would be coming back to Anfield before a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic header, after an offside cross into the box, stole a point for Jose Mourinho’s men in January 2017. The Portuguese manager oversaw two dull goalless draws at Anfield either side of that game after setting out to park the bus and spoil Liverpool’s counter attacking threat. A strong penalty claim was dismissed in the game on Merseyside last season, as Coutinho was brought down in the United box. Spain international David De Gea was the man of the match as he made crucial saves from the Brazilian, Joel Matip and Emre Can to claim a point for the visitors.
United broke the sequence of draws with a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford in March this year as two goals from Marcus Rashford were enough to see them over the line after Eric Bailly’s own goal in the second half. Liverpool could feel hard done by as three strong claims for a penalty were waved away by the match officials. It was an uncharacteristically quiet performance from Liverpool’s attacking players and a steep learning curve for young England international Trent Alexander-Arnold as he was caught out for both United goals.
Roll the clock forward to today and Liverpool sit at the top of the Premier League table with United way off the pace in sixth place, a hefty sixteen points behind. The Reds have scored thirty-four goals so far this season, which is six more than United, and conceded just six – a huge twenty less than Mourinho’s men. The Portuguese coach has built his reputation on having his players setup in a manner which makes them hard to score against and subsequently hard to beat. But they have been shipping goals left, right and centre this season and have kept just two clean sheets so far – with Liverpool leading the way on ten. Brazil international Alisson Becker has been in superb form since his world-record arrival at Anfield from AS Roma in the Summer and is currently winning the battle with De Gea and Manchester City number one Ederson, who has eight clean sheets to his name.
Sunday afternoon’s game at Anfield represents a wonderful opportunity for Klopp to claim his first Premier League success against the club’s fiercest rivals and also to lay down a marker by leaving United nineteen points behind – which would keep the Reds top of the table and make their chances of getting into the top four even slimmer this season. Only Cardiff City, Southampton, Fulham, Huddersfield Town and Burnley have conceded fewer goals than United and Liverpool are in fine form with five wins from the last five games – United having won just once in their most recent five league fixtures.
Liverpool supporters would be delighted to see the team claim another three points in this fixture and it would represent a great early Christmas present for the Anfield faithful. But United fans would be absolutely made up to see their side end the unbeaten start made to the campaign by Klopp’s men. So there’s plenty to play for on each side as the most watched game in world football approaches.
Manchester City losing 2-0 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening opened the door for Liverpool to replace them at the top of the table and make a genuine claim as title challengers. The 4-0 win over Bournemouth earlier in the day put pressure on Pep Guardiola’s side going into their match at Stamford Bridge and they faltered. It was the first time in a few rounds of fixtures that Klopp’s side had been playing first and in the position to put the heat on City – and it worked. The same won’t happen this weekend, with Everton heading to The Etihad on Saturday in the first part of the Merseyside v Manchester double header. Liverpool fans will be hoping that Marco Silva’s men can take a point or three off City – while there’ll no doubt be plenty of their supporters hoping that they lose to avoid doing Liverpool any favours!
It promises to be an eventful weekend in the Premier League and Liverpool supporters will be hoping to see the team still sat at the top of the table on Sunday night.