Premier League 2019-20, Manchester United vs Liverpool: What's at stake for the hosts?
Liverpool currently have eight wins out of eight matches played and are looking for their ninth consecutive Premier League win this season. Their sizzling form coupled with United's problematic start means Jurgen Klopp’s men will go into the clash as huge favorites.
But there's a lot at stake for the hosts, beginning with the need to arrest their seemingly chronic decline.
United’s woeful start
It has not been an easy couple of months for Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have gotten off to one of their worst ever starts, with only two wins from eight games so far.
The fans have been demanding Solskjaer's sacking for the past few games, but the management wisely seems intent on giving the man more leeway.
United’s last outing ended in a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle that saw them slump to 12th in the Premier League table. The Red Devils find themselves just two points above the relegation zone, which is not familiar territory for them.
After starting the season with a heavy 4-0 win against Chelsea, United's season has taken a drastic turn for the worse as they haven’t won a game in their last five outings, struggling to even score in three of those matches.
A point against Liverpool could see the Red Devils manager buy some more time, but such a tough game might have come a little too soon.
The sack game
The last time Manchester United faced Liverpool, it ended in a 0-0 draw. But the one before that not only ended in a 3-1 win for Liverpool but it also ended Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United managerial career.
The Portuguese, who took over in May 2016 and led United to the League Cup and Europa League titles, was 19 points behind the then league leaders Liverpool. In December 2018, right after the 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, Mourinho was sacked and a caretaker manager in Solskjaer was appointed.
Months later, the situation hasn't quite improved for Solskjaer. If Mourinho’s United was closer to the relegation zone than the top of the table, sitting at the 6th place, then Solskjaer’s United sits even lower at 12th place.
That said, Solskjaer at least has the excuse that his team has been riddled with injuries. Paul Pogba and David de Gea being ruled out of the game might just be a blessing in disguise for the Norwegian's career.
With a growing injury list, Solskjaer’s team for Sunday could well be excused for any result against the Reds, no matter how horrific.
Liverpool - favorites after long
Manchester United have a fairly decent recent record against Liverpool and especially at Old Trafford, where they haven’t lost to their rivals in the last six matches across competitions. The two teams have met on 202 occasions, with United winning 80 as compared to 66 for Liverpool, 56 games ending in draws.
But going into Old Trafford this Sunday, Liverpool are clear favorites. Klopp's men will be out in full force after welcoming Alisson Becker from injury and Joel Matip declaring himself fit for the game too.
Considering that Liverpool have such a potent squad, Solskjaer will have his hands full trying to avoid what his predecessor suffered after a game against their fiercest rivals.