When the fixtures are released, Manchester United immediately look for Liverpool away. That trip to Anfield is always our biggest game of the season and as bad as Louis van Gaal was as manager, his record against the scousers in the Premier League was flawless.
But things have changed, Man United have changed, so have Liverpool. Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool look like a different beast in attack and under Jose Mourinho we’ve yet to really click into gear. So, the game is finely poised going into it but off the back of a 1-1 draw with Stoke City, what do United need to change in order to come away from Anfield with a win?
Improved finishing. The first point is a simple one but it’s what we found most difficult against an inspired Grant in Stoke’s goal. Both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba had gilt edged chances to score but failed to and at Anfield we’re unlikely to get too many chances, so we’ve got to stick them away if we get one.
The good thing for United is that Liverpool’s defence is shaky and if we can bring our A-game we should make chances but unless we improve from that woeful display of finishing we showed last week at Old Trafford, we can already kiss goodbye to any chance of a win at Anfield.
Improved pressing. This is a particularly important point and one which we’ve struggled with in terms of consistency this season. Spurs showed in their 2-0 beating of Man City just how much you can force a team who presses intensely into speeding up their play to the point where it is uncomfortable – it really is a case of trying to make Liverpool taste their own medicine.
If we sit deep and allow Liverpool control of the ball in possession rather than adopting a pressing game, they are going to dominate the ball and have the energy left to hound United when we’ve got the ball. We can’t let them do that – to beat Liverpool we’ve got to play with far more intensity and energy than we showed in the City game.
Concentration for 90 minutes. It’s one of the most basic rules in football but you’ve got to stay switched on for the full 90 minutes. We were guilty of not doing that against Stoke and were punished with a goal late on that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Sunday league game.
There’s one thing the game between United and Liverpool is certain to be – hostile. It’ll be a cauldron of noise for United and there are lots of players in our squad who haven’t felt that intensity yet, so that unchartered territory is worrying in itself but we’ve got the squad to go out there and do it. Unfortunately, we’re yet the sort of football we showed against Leicester City in the first half on a consistent basis.
If we don’t bring the right game plan to Anfield then it will be advantage Liverpool right from the first whistle but with Mourinho in charge and the players we’ve got, big games like this should be where they thrive and the sort of matches they live for. Plus, there is no better way to galvanise the fans and players by winning away at Liverpool so it could be the catalyst our season needs to kick into gear.