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old foes Liverpool's clash with Manchester United is perfect opportunity to lay a marker for next season

Clash with old rivals is the ideal time to signal intent for future

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Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the Europa League semi final. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the Europa League semi final. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the Europa League semi final. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

If Manchester United beat Liverpool on Sunday, it won’t just delay Manchester City’s coronation as Premier League champions.

It will also say a lot about whether United can genuinely be contenders next season, because until they are competing again, properly competing, nothing will have changed at that club.

On Sunday, we know that if City have already won their game, they can win the league if Liverpool beat United, and even though the title is gone from United, they won’t want to hand it to City like that.

United will want to make City earn it, work hard for it on the pitch, not just gift it to them by losing to Liverpool. That happened in 2018, when a United defeat at home to West Brom gave the title to City and I am sure it hurt.

But United have to become real challengers. They are second... but they are 11 points behind. And they have never really put up a challenge to City this season. There was never a stage over the season where you expected them to be in the title race.

And they can’t be happy to finish second, to get the Champions League sewn up. That can’t be seen as progress. It doesn’t matter if you finish second or third if you’re not in a title race.

Because if they are going to move on as a team, they need to do better. So they should start with a statement of intent by beating Liverpool at Old Trafford: don’t sit back the way they have done, go and beat them, beat them well, as Liverpool aren’t in great form.

United need to show that they can go and win big matches, not just one-off games but over a season, and I’d see beating Liverpool on Sunday as a sign that this team has progressed. I think it would add a bit of confidence for the rest of the season so they can then start fresh.

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Paul Pogba of Manchester United celebrates with teammates Victor Lindelof, Fred and Harry Maguire after scoring their team's fifth goal. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Paul Pogba of Manchester United celebrates with teammates Victor Lindelof, Fred and Harry Maguire after scoring their team's fifth goal. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Paul Pogba of Manchester United celebrates with teammates Victor Lindelof, Fred and Harry Maguire after scoring their team's fifth goal. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)


I think they need a change in the tactical mindset at United. Too often they are set up to not lose: they are at home to Liverpool, the approach should be to take the game to them. City went at Liverpool, away from home, and hammered them 4-1. That’s the standard that’s been set and what United need to reach if they are to win the title again, not to go into games with fear of losing.

United are more or less guaranteed second so what do they have to lose from being confident at home to Liverpool, to let their good players play while knowing that their defensive players should be able to keep Liverpool quiet?

I don’t know if Liverpool can do enough to get top four, as their home form is a real concern, with some of the games they’ve played, and the teams they have lost to at Anfield.

A side that fails to beat Newcastle United at home is not looking like a side that’s good enough to make the top four. If you look at previous seasons, the teams who make the top four are the ones who beat the likes of Newcastle and Brighton and Burnley, and Liverpool haven’t been doing that. It’s Liverpool’s own fault that they are struggling to make the top four.

Liverpool are, of course, disappointed with how their season fell apart. One minute they were in contention and very suddenly, they had fallen away, whereas United have been in and around there. They have beaten City in the league and beaten Liverpool in the FA Cup this season.

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So they could win big games, but at the same time they seemed to be happy to get draws with the lesser teams, and that will be the frustration for Solskjaer’s side.

Liverpool could have gone into the top four last weekend but couldn’t hold out against Newcastle, and you still wonder where it’s all gone wrong. To me it’s a mixture of mentality and fatigue, two factors that have gone right through the squad.

If you look around Liverpool, there is always an excuse for what’s gone wrong. And they need to get over that, they need to get the heads on straight and say, we know Virgil Van Dijk’s not here so we have to support whoever is coming in and support him as a team.

Their shots-to-goals ratio is very poor and that’s nothing to do with Van Dijk being missing or fatigue. It’s sloppy play and they need to get that mentality back, and start believing in themselves again if they are to get back to where they were.

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