Lost & Won: Manchester United vs Liverpool

Manchester United take on Liverpool this weekend with ambitions of denting the title charge of Jurgen Klopp’s Reds.

Liverpool have lost just once all season and sit second in the Premier League table, level on points with Manchester City but with a worse goal difference.

The two sides meet at a crunch time in a season that has been full of unpredictable twists and turns.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken United back into the top four and has yet to lose in the Premier League, while Liverpool are perhaps the most well-drilled unit in the division. They have conceded a mere 15 goals – five fewer than Manchester City – and have made a habit of winning without playing particularly well.

Football FanCast takes a look at where this mouthwatering clash will be won and lost…

The key battle – Paul Pogba vs Jordan Henderson

The midfield battle will be integral to determining which side has the territorial advantage this weekend.

Paul Pogba is a flashy central midfielder, capable of the sublime, while Jordan Henderson has no frills and goes about his job with a minimum of fuss.

Yet both are absolutely integral to the way in which their sides play – they each set the tempo and drive their sides forward.

Pogba did not even play the last time these two sides met, when Liverpool won 3-1 at Anfield, but he will be chomping at the bit to get out there on Sunday.

He has been in electric form under Solskjaer, scoring eight goals and laying on five assists since the Norwegian replaced Jose Mourinho in the Old Trafford dugout.

Henderson will have to keep him quiet if Liverpool are to play their brand of football and ultimately pick up three vital points.

The key dynamic – United’s counter-attacks

It remains to be seen if United will willingly cede possession at home.

Against Chelsea, in the FA Cup, United had just 33% possession and won 2-o, twice executing pitch-perfect counter attacks that left the Blues vulnerable at the back.

It was a similar story when the Red Devils dumped Arsenal out of the competition, as they allowed the Gunners 75% possession, and yet won 3-1.

It has been a key hallmark of the way Solskjaer has set his sides up away from home and it may be wise to replicate it at Old Trafford.

It would nullify the danger of Liverpool breaking, too, with the pace of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah likely to terrify United’s defenders.

The deciding factor – Will Liverpool be clinical?

Liverpool fired a blank in the Champions League in midweek and were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich at Anfield.

The Reds managed just two shots on target from 15 attempts and they will have to be more accurate if they hope to breach United’s defence this weekend.

Scoring goals has not normally been an issue for Klopp’s men, such is the ferocity of their forward three, but they have run into difficulty in recent weeks, scoring once against Leicester City and West Ham United in 1-1 draws, before bouncing back with a 3-0 thumping of AFC Bournemouth.

It will not help their cause that Liverpool are facing perhaps the best goalkeeper on the planet in David De Gea, but they have the ability to create chances throughout the 90 minutes.

The match may well hinge on whether they can take them.

The impact subs – Alexis Sanchez vs Xherdan Shaqiri

Alexis Sanchez has struggled to get into the United team of late – he has yet to play 90 minutes under Solskjaer in the Premier League – and he is again likely to start on the bench against Liverpool.

However, the 124-cap Chilean has the ability to change a game as a substitute with his direct running and indefatigable efforts down the left flank.

Xherdan Shaqiri, who Transfermarkt value at £22.5million, has been a substitute three times in Liverpool’s last five games and he too has the potential to change matters from the bench.

A strong, composed dribbler, he is unlikely to usurp Salah in the starting XI but offers a different option as a substitute.

Matching him up with Ashley Young, while Alexis goes head-to-head with Trent Alexander-Arnold, would be an interesting dynamic, and may well go a long way to deciding which side comes out of the game with all three points.

Article title: Lost & Won: Manchester United vs Liverpool

Please leave feedback to help us improve the site: