Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Reds of Manchester and Merseyside set for 199th competitive meeting

The international break is over and club football returns with a bang with the most eagerly awaited fixture on the English calendar. 

We travel to Anfield on Saturday lunchtime, as the Reds of Manchester and Merseyside - Britain's two most successful and widely-supported sides - lock horns competitively for the 199th time.

The head-to-head results are perhaps more one-sided that you would expect for such a bitter, storied and high-profile rivalry.
United have won 79, Liverpool 65 and the other 54 have ended all square - including both meetings last season (0-0 in the corresponding fixture, 1-1 at Old Trafford). 

Louis van Gaal, perhaps justifiably so, had his critics during his time in charge at United, but there can be denying that the Dutchman nearly always got it right when it came to the arch enemy. 

The unwanted Europa League KO aside, he won four out of four in the league against the Merseysiders  - from the 'Juanfield' match where Steven Gerrard got sent off 38 seconds after coming on, Anthony Martial's breathtaking debut goal to Wazza's Kop end smash and grab winner. 

That 2-0 defeat in March 2016 proved our only reverse in the eight meetings prior to this one, but form, stats and past records are tossed aside when it comes to this fixture. 

In-form United have swept aside all comers in a near perfect start to the season, and along with City have set the early pace at the top of the league.

Pep Guardiola's side lead the way, albeit only on goal difference, having thrashed this Liverpool side and beaten the champions on their own patch in a blistering start to the season.

Following that statement win of City's at Chelsea last time out, United and Jose now have their chance to put down one of our own.
As good and as impressive as our start to the season has been, we've yet to face any of last season's other top six sides and - on paper at least - Liverpool look to be the truest test of our credentials so far.

Jurgen Klopp's side are the epitome of a Jekyll and Hyde team: their brilliant, flamboyant attacking play undermined by chaotic, harum-scarum defensive shortcomings.

Liverpool will be without their star man - last season's Player of the Year Sadio Mane is out for six weeks with a hamstring problem sustained on international duty with Senegal.

Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini will both miss out for United, which means that Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera are likely to come into the midfield. 

Whatever line ups Messrs Klopp and Mourinho select, the latest instalment of English football's fiercest feud is set to be another thriller. 

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