Friday 15 January 2016

The two sides dominance may have dimmed but Liverpool v United is as big as ever

For only the second time since three points for a win in 1981, Liverpool meet United on Sunday with both sides outside of the Premier League's top four.

The other, in September 2004, was when the season was only five games old.

Two games beyond the half-way point of the season, United are sixth in a table they led in November whilst Liverpool are three off the Reds after Wednesday's last-gasp equaliser against league leaders Arsenal.
The Anfield outfit are excited and enthused to have the charismatic Klopp as their manager but their form, like United's, is inconsistent.

Since topping the table, United have won only one of their last eight league games and the club has been enveloped in a storm about Louis van Gaal's future.
The style of play is not what fans want and the Dutchman's stock has plummeted, though support for the team remains strong.

Tuesday's thrilling 3-3 draw at Newcastle went against the grain of what United have become.
The tactics were more adventurous and Rooney's brace further reinforced his timely return to form ahead of the Anfield trip- even the manager was seen showing rare emotion from the bench. 

Fans welcomed Van Gaal's ditching of the overly cautious approach which has had such a malign influence on the club's season.
He made so many notes during the NUFC match that he may need a new notepad for Sunday's clash.

United have not played like United should, but the early stability was built on a consistent defence in front of David De Gea.
When we push forward- or take risks in Van Gaal's parlance because it means we have less possession- the defence looks disorganised and nervy, though this has not been helped by ongoing injuries and out of position players.

Matteo Darmian, usually a right-back, played left back. Ashley Young is not a full back, while Daley Blind is a stop-gap centre half far removed from the defensive titans of yore.
Marouane Fellaini struggled in a defensive midfield role.

United don't look comfortable when they're in front and  Newcastle's late equaliser was no surprise to those who had seen us cling on amid late Swansea pressure in the previous league game.

Juan Mata's majestic double inspired United to a thrilling 2-1 win at Anfield in March and, then, as now, the Reds find themselves in another fight for a top-four finish with a rejuventated Liverpool hot on our heels.

Mata was dropped at Newcastle for "failing to follow team orders" but despite the Spaniard's recent dip in form, he will itching to be recalled for the fixture in which he enjoyed arguably his finest performance in a United shirt to date last season. 

Despite the fact that this fixture will not be the titanic title tussle it once was for some time, whenever we lock horns with the old enemy it's always a momentous and exciting occasion to cherish. 

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