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exclusive There’s something in my gut telling me the Red Devils have it in them to beat old foes Liverpool


Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates scoring against Burnley

Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates scoring against Burnley

Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates scoring against Burnley

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that Manchester United can win today’s huge Premier League, top-of-the-table showdown with Liverpool.

But only if they ditch the sterile tactics employed against Manchester City before Christmas.

This game won’t end 0-0 as that one did, when the fear of losing overtook two normally attacking teams.

So to get a win, or even a point, United will have to score one or maybe two goals at Anfield today – and they have to set out with an ambition to find them.

Liverpool against Manchester United is one of the great games of world football, any day of the week.

When they are first and second in the Premier League, it is just off the charts in importance and anticipation.

The famous football phrase is that ‘the table never lies’. Well that is very true – but only when you get to the end of the season.

And the facts right now are that Manchester United lead the Premier League by three points without having beaten any of the teams who sat 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 6th as the weekend began.

They were hockeyed by Spurs, drew with Manchester City, Chelsea and Leicester City and were beaten by Arsenal as well. And this is their first match of the campaign against Liverpool.

Are United only top of the Premier League because Chelsea can’t win an away match?

Or is it because Spurs can’t hold onto a lead?

Or are they on top due to Liverpool having taken only two points out of the last nine?

Or as a result of Manchester City being slow to start their campaign?

You can go on and on finding reasons why United are in a false place this morning.

Those head-to-head outcomes with the rest of the Premier League’s elite doesn’t suggest an all-conquering Manchester United side – yet.

They might be by the time the season is over, but not just now.

Too many of United’s wins so far this season have been against the teams in the bottom half of the table. It makes today’s clash all the more important in terms of making a statement.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (inset left) has big personnel calls to make this afternoon. All season Fred and Scott McTominay have been his go-to pair of midfield minders in big matches.

It hasn’t always worked, Fred’s abject performance against PSG springs to mind.


Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and his United counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and his United counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and his United counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

But it is the formation that Ole has favoured. However, playing the pair of them has usually meant leaving out Paul Pogba.

Yet that would be a huge call to make now as, little did I think I’d write this for much of the season, the French star is one of United’s best players right now.

Playing a brace of midfield sitters also means cutting back on attacking talent too.

Anthony Martial limped off against Burnley the other night, but even if he doesn’t play there’s still any combination of Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood to call on.

Those players all seem the same to me. Good strikers with pace who can trouble any defence.

But none of the younger players impress me yet as clinical finishers. They have still to learn that part of the game.

What United don’t have right now is a clone of Ole 20 years ago – a poacher who will stick one in the net from four yards.

That’s as much a skill as outpacing a defence and blasting the ball into the net from the edge of the penalty area.

Bruno Fernandes will play somewhere, of course, and I’m looking forward to him going head-to-head with Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara.

The Spanish international is a wonderful footballer, quietly prised away from Bayern Munich last summer, who is just fit again after being injured in that feisty Merseyside derby.

You just know Liverpool are going to go at United and their star trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah will get chances to score.

That’s why I say United have to come to this match with an attitude of ‘we have to score’.

Jurgen Klopp will not be as accommodating as Pep Guardiola was when it came to playing with caution in the Manchester derby earlier in the season.

And anyway, we know that Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk-less defence is their weak spot.

There’s no point in knowing that the opposition have a vulnerability unless you have a go at attacking it.

United will look to break with pace today. They will hope that Pogba and Fernandes get the strikers in on goal as soon as they pounce on Liverpool possession anywhere on the pitch.

The question is will Ole go for it? Will he give his team striking power by leaving out one of Fred or McTominay and going with an extra midfield passer or another forward?

I think not. The fact that neither man started against Burnley on Tuesday last, and that McTominay came on only for a few minutes of injury-time, would seem to point to them being held back to be fresh for the big one today.

All of which seems to be contradicting my very first words – that Manchester United will win the game because if they set up seriously defensively I don’t believe they will.

Yet there’s something in my gut telling me the Red Devils have it in them to triumph today.

They could be catching Liverpool at a good time. Understandably, after almost two seasons of hardly ever dropping a point, the champions have hit a bit of a wall in recent weeks, leaving seven points behind them. That could hurt their confidence and leave them vulnerable this afternoon.

On the other hand, Klopp’s men may come out refreshed and firing after a fortnight in which their only game was against Aston Villa’s Academy.

It’s gonna be a belter – United to win!

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Online Editors