Match Preview: Manchester United vs Liverpool – Time to sink or swim

by Tom Parker

England’s two most successful clubs go head to head once more as Liverpool make the journey to Old Trafford for a match which always provides something special.

The match takes on even greater importance in the context of the season. The ‘transitional’ period at United has not been as seamless as fans and players alike would have hoped and David Moyes side appear destined to miss out on Champions League football. Meanwhile, Liverpool have been impressive under Brendan Rodgers.

United’s fall from grace this term has been well-documente  with the side currently languishing in sixth place. Last weekend’s victory against an abject West Brom was probably our best performance of 2014 so far. A beautiful team goal, featuring 18 passes, a number of which were first touch, showed the quality we possess but it’s anyone’s guess if that performance will be replicated on Sunday.

Moyes faces something of a quandary given how fluid United have been in consecutive league victories where a narrow formation has been deployed. In-between victories against Palace and West Brom, the Reds were woeful in a 2-0 defeat in Greece where more traditional, touchline hugging wingers Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia were favoured in wide areas – Moyes must decide on a typically more pragmatic approach or the free-flowing football which fans have come to expect in recent seasons.

Jonny Evans and Rafael are both in contention after injuries and Javier Hernandez, who scored the winner against Liverpool in United’s Capital One Cup victory in September, could grab a place on the bench too. The spine of the team which started at West Brom could be unchanged. Adnan Januzaj, who seemed a little out of sorts at the Hawthorns, could potentially be replaced by Young.

The sides have met twice so far this season, both in the early stages of the season, and both games were decided by a single goal. At Anfield, an early Daniel Sturridge header proved to be the difference between the two sides and Chicharito scored the winner at Old Trafford in a Capital One Cup meeting.

Moyes admitted in his Friday press conference that a victory would be a ‘big boost’ for his reign but conceded that Liverpool might be considered the favourites ahead of a pivotal fixture in his tenure.

United have played below par against the old enemy in recent years but there is clear motivation for the Reds ahead of their meeting, with a loss not only likely to be the final nail in the top four coffin but also a big setback for Moyes ahead of a huge two weeks.

Liverpool have not been brilliant on their travels this season and have looked particularly porous defensively away from Anfield but they have scored 31 away goals, a league high.

Old Trafford has hardly been a fortress for United this year and if Liverpool go for the jugular, they could prove too much for United.

Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Liverpool

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