Manchester United v Liverpool
Old Trafford, Sunday October 24th, kick off 4:30pm

by John Spillane

Liverpool lying in second place in the Premier league table travel to Manchester on Sunday, four points and four places better off than their hosts, with home boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer job once again coming under increasing scrutiny.

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In spite of the come from behind Champion’s league victory over Atalanta on Tuesday, United’s recent form has been unconvincing. This has led to growing accusations that they are a collection of individuals, as opposed to a cohesive, structured unit which is greater than the sum of its parts. Games are being won due to moments of individual brilliance and the weaknesses, both tactical and individual, become even more striking each time the level of the opposition increases. There is a gaping hole in midfield when out of possession and Harry Maguire and co at the back are being asked to do too much. It may be "thrill a minute" stuff, but doesn't seem to be a blueprint for long term success. David De Gea, restored to the No. 1 position this season ahead of Dean Henderson is called upon game after game to perform last ditch heroics.

In possession they are blessed with talented individuals, but in contrast to some of their trophy chasing rivals they do not defend consistently from the front. Recent losses at home to West Ham and Aston Villa, accompanied by the 4-2 defeat at Leicester City which ended their unbeaten away run, brought the spotlight back on the coach. Appointed as a temporary replacement in 2018 following the sacking of Jose Mourinho, Solskjaer’s reign has often seen his side come up with a result when most required.

Jurgen Klopp’s buoyant Liverpool side, unbeaten in 21 games, are once more making a challenge for major honours after 2020/21’s injury hit campaign. The front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are back in tandem with Firmino restored in favour of Diego Jota and scoring goals. Between the three of them, they have combined for 24 goals in 30 appearances, with Salah leading the way on 11 (seven in PL). The Egyptian’s recent performances have seen his reputation further enhanced following special goals against Manchester City and Watford.

Coach Klopp is looking for his 200th victory as Liverpool manager, in a fixture where they have only lost one of their last 10 encounters with Manchester United. Since the 4-2 win at Old Trafford in May his team are on a run where they have scored in every half of their last 10 away games. With Raphael Varane out injured the central defensive partnership of Maguire and Victor Lindelof will need their colleagues to up the work rate they are to curtail the Liverpool attack. If Liverpool travel with a positive approach there’s Iikely to be only one winner, especially with Bruno Fernandes and Fred also expected to miss the game. However, the big occasion is made for Cristiano Ronaldo and it would be no surprise to see him make a telling contribution, but even that may not be enough.

Suggested bet : Liverpool to win (6/5 at bet365)

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