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Liverpool vs Manchester United: Match preview, two key points ahead of the game, and prediction | Premier League 2018-19

ANALYST
Preview
879   //    15 Dec 2018, 21:51 IST

Liverpool vs Manchester United is the biggest game in the national calendar
Liverpool vs Manchester United is the biggest game on the national calendar

England has many great and storied football clubs. Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Leeds United, Aston Villa, Newcastle United, and Sunderland amongst others, stand as the most successful, most supported, and most historic English clubs.

But there are two which stand above the others, in terms of trophies, stature, and billing.

Due to reasons of history, geography, and inverse success over periods, Liverpool vs Manchester United has emerged to become - in essence - England's "El Clasico". Like Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Liverpool vs Manchester United is the biggest game in the national calendar, and represents a true "old guard" English fixture.

Klopp vs Mourinho - A clash of footballing ideologies
Klopp vs Mourinho - A clash of footballing ideologies

The cities of Liverpool and Manchester have four noted top-level clubs between them - Manchester City and Everton, of course, comprise the other two.

But Liverpool and Man United, as the two most successful clubs, have a rivalry akin in spite and intensity to Arsenal vs Tottenham, or (sans sectarianism) Celtic vs Rangers. As clubs of a more similar historical stature and success level, their rivalry has arisen from history, given both cities' roles in Britain's industrial past. Liverpool was a major port, whilst Manchester emerged as a principal manufacturing centre.

Moreover, amidst this industrial and geographical rivalry, in which both cities vied to be the "king" of North West England, the rivalry between the clubs emanated from this inter-city schism.

It took a turn when United's Busby Babes, named after United legend, Sir Matt Busby, achieved league title success, culminating in the 1958 Munich disaster. Liverpool led by the legendary Bill Shankly on the other hand, attained league success in the 1960s, triggering a dynasty of sustained winning, lasting until the 1990s.

United came back strongly to win the league again in the same decade, and were subsequently the first English European Cup winners in 1968 - a decade after Munich.

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Shankly retired in 1974, but under his successor, Bob Paisley, the club went on to win three European Cups, with a fourth added under boss Joe Fagan.

United struggled in the 1970s and 80s, which was compounded by Liverpool's dominance. This switched though, once club legend Sir Kenny Dalglish resigned as manager in 1990, and in the same year Sir Alex Ferguson won the FA Cup. From then, until the current period, Manchester United became the dominant force, and in their 2017 Europa League triumph, officially surpassed Liverpool's trophy haul.

Sir Alex used to joke about knocking Liverpool off their perch - well his club did in two counts. One was the trophy total, and the other was in winning more league titles. Man United now has 20 titles (both First Division/Premier League), whilst Liverpool (without a title since 1990) has 18.

As for this game, Liverpool is the better side, though United have many good players. Liverpool however, has far less on and off the pitch issues, and their form this season has been far superior. Going into this game, they surely are favourites, though nothing in life is certain.

But given Liverpool's favourite status, how should boss Jurgen Klopp handle this game?

What can Jose Mourinho do in this game? Will Pogba, Salah, Firmino, van Dijk, etc. define the outcome?

What's certain is that this game represents a deep and tense rivalry between the two biggest and most storied English football clubs, which ranks amongst the biggest grudge games in global football.


#1 Klopp - attitudes and psychology

Liverpool are clear favourites here. Whilst both they and United progressed into the next Champions League round, they won vs Napoli, whilst United lost vs Valencia earlier in the week.

Liverpool under Klopp this season looks more balanced, happier, and tactically able. Mohammed Salah, the recent BBC African Player of the Year for 2018, has regained his stellar form, and Firmino and Mane are always key threats.

Moreover, Liverpool has conceded few PL goals this season, and in part it's due to the presence of Virgil van Dijk - who is fast emerging as one of the world's prime centre-backs.

Alisson too is a great improvement over Karius, and (perhaps unfairly) maligned players like Lovren are doing well.

What's key though is a strong mentality - Klopp himself alluded to this in his pre-match interview on the game:

He knows clearly that a professional attitude is strong, and he also praised Paul Pogba as world class, and a potentially dangerous player against them.

The sign of champions in any season is doing what it takes - and holding the mental capacity - to win games when required. Jurgen Klopp is certainly acknowledging this, and it's a positive sign for this game, and in the league title hunt overall.

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Avid Gooner since the early 1990s. Was Wenger Out, but truly sorry to see him go. All time favourite players at Arsenal - Wright, Bergkamp, Seaman, Henry, Alexis, Koscielny, Sansom, Rocastle, Overmars, Vieira, Cesc.
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