An intriguing tactical aspect to this clash is that both teams have had a lot of joy keeping the ball in the last couple of months. At Anfield back in October Mourinho showed up to defend, but the Red Devils’ have built their revival on a dynamic brand of possession football.
It’s the simplest way to get the best out of Carrick and Herrera, who are naturals at dictating play. So we have the real prospect of two teams going toe-to-toe on Sunday, which could go down as a Northwest Derby for the Ages.
Blind or Darmian?
Neither of the Red Devils’ picks at left-back would be first choice in a perfect world. Still, Darmian has had a revival in the last few weeks, while Blind did well when called upon over Christmas.
Blind gives the team some tactical nous and good distribution, and Darmian is more of a modern full-back, getting up and down the flank tirelessly.
Luke Shaw seems to be permanently out of the picture, so for now Man United are going to patch up their left side and hope it isn’t exposed by Liverpool’s dizzying attacks.
Mkhi You’re so Fine
Mourinho has found some balance in midfield since the draw earlier in the season. Carrick and Ander Herrera have become important cogs in the centre that give Pogba the freedom to do his thing.
And this stability has given Mkhitaryan a defined role on the right side of the attack. So maybe there was some sense in holding the summer signing back while the other parts of the team came together. Either way the Armenian is looking better by the week as he faces off against his former coach in another fascinating sub-plot.
Both teams rotated in the FA Cup, and United rested Pogba and Ibrahimovic, their two standout performers this season. It’s all in preparation for a big week of football as we expect both to take part in the EFL Cup semi-final against Hull.
At this stage of the Cup both Klopp and Mourinho will be going all out to get to the final. With that in mind, Man United might have a small advantage as they face a simple home tie against Hull, while Liverpool travel to Southampton, who can compete with the best on their day.
Fit and Firing
Liverpool’s title hopes rest on a couple of their defenders, namely Milner and Matip , staying fit. The early signs this week are that both will be ready for the showdown at Old Trafford.
Add them to the Estonian centre-back Ragnar Klavan and Nathaniel Clyne and you have a very serviceable defence backing up that vibrant attack and midfield.
If the going gets tough and Liverpool need to hold out on Sunday you’d bet on that set of defenders holding firm under pressure from the home team.
Liverpool haven’t exactly suffered since Philippe Coutinho got injured last year, but that doesn't mean that his return won’t make a difference. The Brazilian whizz will make Liverpool’s attacks that bit less predictable.
And with Mané away on international duty, a little more fizz in attack could be vital. We expect him to start in a fluid attack with Firmino and Origi, ensuring an uncomfortable afternoon for Man United’s defenders.
Favourites for the Big Occasions
Klopp is well-known as a great man-manager, and he must say something to his players to get them up for the big games. Liverpool have come out on top against Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City and Everton this season. The bad results have actually come in more winnable matches.
So Liverpool are dead certs to come out all guns blazing once again. If the Reds can seize control of the middle of the park early on they could get the upper hand against a United team that won’t be content with sitting back in front of the Old Trafford support.
Manchester United vs Liverpool Prediction
With injuries clearing and weeks of good form, both of these teams are in great shape coming into this match. Manchester United have the home advantage, but Liverpool have made a habit of beating teams at the top of the table this season.
So it’s tricky to pick a clear favourite. For that reason we’re going right down the middle and predicting a draw. But unlike the snorefest at Anfield in October this one’s going to be an exciting score draw.