While it is always a huge tussle when the most decorated clubs in England lock horns, Monday’s game feels like it could be one of the most important matches between the two for some time as it will set the tone for whoever looks destined to be the dominant force in this fierce rivalry during the Jose Mourinho-Jurgen Klopp era.
Here are five potential determining factors in who will come out on top.
5. Can United’s Giants Capitalise On Liverpool’s Weaknesses From Set-Pieces?
Liverpool have conceded from corners in each of their last two matches while only West Brom have scored more than Man United’s four set-piece goals this term.
With the likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and possibly even Marouane Fellaini likely to feature, Liverpool will need to shore up their defensive set-up prior to any dead ball situations.
4. Which Goalkeeper Will Be A More Calming Influence On Their Side?
Ordinarily this would be an obvious advantage for the Red Devils as David De Gea has been one of the three best goalkeepers in the world for the last few seasons while Simon Mignolet has often been chastised as being the weak link holding Liverpool back.
But on recent form the two may be on more of a par with one another than is usually the case. While the Belgian has been solid if not spectacular for the Merseysiders, De Gea has let in a couple of soft goals, most notably against Stoke City when he palmed away a weak shot into a Stoke player’s path, which led to Joe Allen’s costly equaliser.
3. Can United Learn From Their Miserable Encounter Versus Manchester City As They Face Another Pacy, Lethal Attack?
Despite Sergio Aguero being suspended for the Manchester derby, United were exposed badly at the back. What had been a very impressive backline has since been more susceptible to shipping goals having conceded in five of their last six matches in all competitions since then.
While Eric Bailly has generally been an immense addition, there remains question marks over both Daley Blind and Smalling as partners for the Ivorian. While Smalling is inferior on the ball and prone to the odd rash tackle, his greater speed and strength should see him get the nod over Blind.
Liverpool will look to test him and the other United defenders at every opportunity as their front three of Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mané have been exceptional this campaign.
2. Can Anyone Exert Control Over Midfield In The White-Hot Atmosphere Of Anfield?
There will be plenty of talent on display in both sides, that much is guaranteed. But it would be a surprise and a huge advantage if one midfield unit can grab this game by the scruff of the neck and control the tempo throughout. Typically, these games are played at a break-neck speed with no one really standing out in the chaos of midfield.
While Philippe Coutinho and Pogba are both their team’s most talented players, both are at their best when bombing on in attack rather than being a puppeteer pulling strings in the middle of the park. It’ll likely come down to the less heralded combinations of Ander Herrera/Juan Mata and Jordan Henderson/Georginio Wijnaldum to duke it out for midfield supremacy.
1. Who Will Come Out On Top In The Battle Of Wits Between ‘The Special One’ And ‘The Normal One’?
This one is anyone’s guess, as it is tough to predict which manager will think more clearly in the heat of the battle. Both men certainly have the credentials not to be fazed by such an occasion.
Perhaps there is a slight edge to the affable German as both he and his side seem to be a lot happier with themselves while United have seemed a bit volatile recently, with Mourinho publicly turning on his full-back Luke Shaw after their 3-1 defeat to Watford.
Whatever the outcome, it seems far more likely to be a ‘special’ match rather than a ‘normal’ one.
Vincent Whelan, Pundit Arena