Recent encounters between Manchester United and Liverpool have been cagey affairs and with second place in the English Premier League on the line, there is little reason to expect any different when they meet at Old Trafford on Saturday (8.30am ET).
The two teams are separated by just two points in the League, with Man Utd second on 62 and Liverpool third on 60. With a relatively comfortable gap having opened up to Chelsea in fifth, it is the battle to finish second to champions elect Manchester City that now takes centre stage.
Jose Mourinho is never shy about adopting cautious tactics to get a result against direct rivals, and he is unlikely to veer from that approach this weekend given how the table stands. The three matches between his Manchester United side and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have produced just two goals in two 0-0 draws at Anfield and a 1-1 at Old Trafford last season.
The 0-0 draw at Anfield earlier in the current campaign was a match particularly bereft of entertainment. Man Utd came into the game in fine attacking form but elected not seriously to test a Liverpool side who had gone seven matches without a clean sheet and who would fall to a 4-1 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur the following weekend. They were happy to defend. When Liverpool did create chances, goalkeeper David de Gea was equal to them.
Mourinho’s comments after the match laid out clearly his approach to such encounters. He described it as “a game of chess,” and criticised Liverpool for their refusal to “open the door for me to win the game.” He was waiting for Liverpool to make an overtly attacking change that never came, one that would have “broken” the game and given United chances late on.
In general, Man Utd have not been a particularly defensive team this season. They haven’t scored at a rate comparable to Manchester City or even Liverpool, but their total of 56 goals still works out at nearly two goals per match and is the third best tally in the division. That they also have the second best defensive record is more a result of De Gea’s brilliance than underlining solidity.
Indeed, their 3-2 win away to Crystal Palace on Monday was far more representative of United’s campaign than that 0-0 draw at Anfield earlier this season. Sloppy defending provided Palace with a two-goal lead early into the second half, only for a series of attacking changes to spur United forward to level the encounter with goals from Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku, before Nemanja Matic then produced a spectacular injury time winner.
Even though Man Utd are the home team this weekend, the onus will again likely fall on Liverpool to attack. With a draw enough to maintain the gap ahead of the final eight matches of the season, it is highly unlikely United will venture unnecessarily into attacking territory. But simply sitting back and letting Liverpool come onto them may not be wise.
It was not an approach that worked in United’s recent 2-0 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur, and it is not a game plan that has worked for many teams against Liverpool over the course of the last few months. Klopp’s side have scored two or more goals in 11 of their last 12 Premier League matches in a period in which they have reduced the gap to United from seven points in mid-December down to just two.
Liverpool have brushed aside the January departure of Philippe Coutinho and continue to rack up goals at an increasingly impressive rate. Mohamed Salah has 24 in the league this season and has scored in each of his last five, while Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and more recently, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are also contributing a good haul of goals and assists. Slight defensive improvements have converted Liverpool into truly fearsome opponents.
It feels like it is Klopp’s side who have the slight edge coming into Saturday’s encounter. Mourinho will undoubtedly seek to nullify their attacking threat, while looking for opportunities for his own side to break forward, but while he is likely to succeed in limiting Liverpool to less chances than they usually create, it is still the Merseyside club who should be considered the marginal favorites to come away with all three points.
Our Preview’s Man Utd vs Liverpool Betting Predictions & Picks Verdict
Trawling through the available odds with the U.S sports betting sites, this preview’s Man Utd vs Liverpool prediction and our idea of a good bet is:
- Back Liverpool to win on the “draw no bet” betting market @ -110 with Bovada.