Manchester United need to put their recent defeat to Swansea behind them when they face historic rivals Liverpool on Saturday (17:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
United finished fourth in the Premier League last season and spent a lot of money over the summer in a bid to challenge for the title this time around. They are fifth in the league table, with seven points from two wins, one draw and that defeat.
Louis Van Gaal’s side tasted that first defeat of the season at the end of an evenly contested encounter away to Swansea prior to the international break. Juan Mata (pictured) gave United the lead early into the second half, only for the home side to strike twice in a five-minute spell just past the hour mark to reverse the scoreline and come away with all three points.
Those two goals were the first Man Utd had conceded in the league this season in what has been a cautious start to the campaign from Van Gaal’s men. The summer arrivals of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin have facilitated a switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with two primarily defensive midfielders providing a strong shield in front of the back four.
The positive impact of this change has been clear on the defensive end. United have conceded very few opportunities and it took an error from goalkeeper Sergio Romero for Swansea to score their winner last time out. They are, however, yet to get going in attack. They have scored just three times in four matches and are struggling to create chances.
Van Gaal is likely to be without the injured Phil Jones (mild thrombosis), while the participation of Michael Carrick (calf) is also in doubt.
Liverpool finished sixth in the Premier League last season and came into the new campaign with the aim of putting together a strong challenge for a top-four finish. They lie seventh in the embryonic table with seven points from two wins, one draw and one defeat.
Brendan Rodgers’ side fell to a 3-0 home defeat to West Ham prior to the international break. They struggled to create chances and looked vulnerable whenever their visitors committed men forward on the counter-attack. Two defensive errors allowed the away side to take a two-goal lead into the interval and they added a third in second-half stoppage time.
It was a terribly poor performance from a Liverpool side who had leaned on a strong defensive setup to secure seven points from just two goals scored across their opening three matches. They finally came a cropper against a West Ham side who defended in a deep and well-organised block and took full advantage of the chances that came their way.
Liverpool’s misery was compounded by the early second-half dismissal of Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian has been one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise unimpressive attack into which new signings Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino are still integrating themselves. His ingenuity will be badly missed on Saturday in a side otherwise short on creative outlets.
In addition to the suspended Coutinho, Rodgers will also be without the injured Daniel Sturridge (hip) and Jon Flanagan (knee) for the trip to Old Trafford, while Benteke (knock), Adam Lallana (knock), Joe Allen (hamstring) and Jordan Henderson (foot) are all doubtful.
Our Man Utd v Liverpool Preview’s Betting Tips
United were comfortable 3-0 victors in last season’s equivalent fixture and also triumphed 2-1 in the return match at Anfield. Man Utd have won five, to Liverpool’s two, of the last eight league meetings at all venues, while the last eight at Old Trafford have seen six wins for United and two for Liverpool. There have been just two draws in the last 20 meetings.
United have been far from fluid in their play during the early weeks of the season but have still been able to secure a solid points haul. They scored inside the opening 15 minutes of both of last season’s victories over Liverpool and will hope to make a similarly strong start on Saturday before bedding down to protect their lead and seek opportunities on the counter.
Liverpool’s attack is also yet to really get up and running and they, too, have leaned on their defensive unit during their early matches of the campaign. West Ham did, however, expose a number of frailties last time out and it will be interesting to see what approach Rodgers decides to take. Defend deep and break quickly seems the most likely.
Both of these teams have focused on defensive stability so far this season and this match preview anticipates a low-scoring encounter from which United are the most likely victors.
- Back Man Utd to win @ best betting odds of 19/20 with SkyBet, Betfred or Paddy Power.
- There have been two or less goals scored in 11 of Liverpool’s last 13 away matches in the Premier League and in six of the eight league matches these two sides have been involved in so far this season. Back under 2.5 goals @ best odds of 3/4 with BetVictor.