Big Match Focus: Manchester United vs Liverpool

Manchester United will be hoping to trip up Liverpool's title charge and do a rare favour for Manchester City at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will look to continue his unbeaten run in the league and put brakes on Liverpool's title challenge.   -  GETTY IMAGES

There are few things Manchester United fans enjoy more than seeing Liverpool's title hopes take a hit and their side have the opportunity to do Jurgen Klopp's men some damage on Sunday.

The Reds were held to back-to-back 1-1 draws against Leicester City and West Ham United before they rediscovered the winning habit in a 3-0 victory over AFC Bournemouth, and those dropped points allowed Manchester City to return to the top of the Premier League table.

While fourth-placed United's focus is on putting some distance between itself and Arsenal, which is a point behind it in fifth, Liverpool goes to Old Trafford knowing a win would put it three clear of City.

Can Klopp mastermind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first Premier League defeat as United manager and put his side back in charge of the title race? The history books and the recent form should provide some clues as to what this huge game might deliver.

 

A GAME WHERE LEGENDS ARE MADE

Solskjaer's standing at Old Trafford could hardly be much higher, with the Norwegian having risen from the status of goal-poaching legend of the past to potential manager of the future in the space of two months.

United's unbeaten run of nine games is its longest in the Premier League since October 2017 and Solskjaer has the chance to break managerial records against the club's fiercest foe.

Read: Herrera -- the unsung hero of United's resurgence

A win or a draw for the Red Devils would see Solskjaer set a new record for the number of points any Premier League manager has earned in their first 10 games in charge, currently held by Guus Hiddink, who won 25 at Chelsea.

Manchester United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer   -  Getty Images

The fixture's history bodes well for Solskjaer, who will become the 20th different Untied manager to take charge of a league game against Liverpool. Of the previous 19, nine have won their first game against the Reds and the most recent was Louis van Gaal in December 2014.

FORM GUIDE

While Solskjaer's arrival at Old Trafford has coincided with a dramatic upturn in form, United's home record has been strong all season.

The Red Devils have suffered just one defeat in their last 14 home league games, that result coming back in August when Tottenham ran out 3-0 winner.

Liverpool has suffered a series of draws in the past three weeks.   -  Getty Images

 

A clean sheet against Liverpool would be United's third in as many Premier League games – a feat it last achieved in January 2018 – but keeping Liverpool at bay will be no mean task.

Klopp's men have scored in their last 18 consecutive Premier League matches and only Tottenham (33) has won more points away from home than the Reds (30) in the Premier League this season.

Also Read: Man United has new flow under Solskjaer, says Wijnaldum

Liverpool has conceded the fewest away goals of any top-flight team this season (eight) as it prepares to go up against the likes of Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba for the second time in 2018-19.

HEAD-TO-HEAD (Rashford vs Mane)

While both sides are littered with potential match-winners, marauding forwards Rashford and Sadio Mane are particularly well placed to create a moment of magic.

Since Boxing Day, the pair have scored five goals each in the Premier League, with Senegal star Mane having played a game more than England's Rashford, and they have both created eight chances for team-mates.

Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford   -  Getty Images

 

The parallels do not end there: Mane and Rashford have both attempted 28 dribbles in that time, but Rashford bombs forward with the ball more frequently (every 21.2 mins compared to Mane's 24.1) and his forays are more productive (46.4 per cent success rate to Mane's 35.7).

Also Read: Alexander-Arnold gets chance to show growth at Old Trafford

Rashford will not be afraid to have a shot on goal against Liverpool, having attempted 33 of them since Boxing Day compared to Mane's 21, but when it comes to passing the Reds winger is way out in front with 259, while Rashford has made 155.

HISTORY SAYS...

The recent history of encounters between these bitter rivals offers contrasting perspectives depending on whether you focus on league matches or all competitions.

In its last nine Premier League meetings with Liverpool, United has lost just once (W5 D3) - although that result did come last time out when it went down 3-1 at Anfield in December 2018.

Also Read: Van Dijk wants to be a 'legend of Liverpool'

However, in all competitions it has lost twice, drawn four times and won only once in its last seven meetings with the Reds.

A trip to Old Trafford has always been difficult for Liverpool in the past few years and with United flying high on confidence, it is going get tougher.   -  Getty Images

 

Games at Old Trafford have been difficult for Liverpool in recent seasons, and Klopp's men have won only one of their last 12 matches (L9 D2) at the stadium.

With passions running high whenever English football's two most successful clubs do battle, penalties abound. Only two other Premier League fixtures have produced more than the 19 spot-kicks that have been awarded in games between United and Liverpool (Liverpool vs Tottenham 22, Everton vs Newcastle United 20).

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