You only have to look at the odds for Sunday’s match to see Manchester United are going into the game against Liverpool as major underdogs. Some major bookmakers have even priced the Red Devils at 4/1 to win a home match while the away side are odds-on.
A combination of some wretched form, and a quite frankly ridiculous injury list, means expectations are very low heading into this North-West derby. Even so, it is eleven players against eleven at the end of the day, and there is a case for the home side coming away with the points. Here are five things that need to happen for United to upset the odds:
1) United must win the 50/50s
Derbies are one-off games. No matter how poor your form is heading into one, there is always a chance of getting a win, if that is, the team is prepared to put in the effort. Liverpool’s midfield is not packed full of technicians. Wijnaldum and Henderson play safe and will make mistakes under pressure so winning possession in the middle of the park is crucial. If you can get passed them, you will expose Fabinho’s lack of pace.
On top of that, winning the 50/50s will win over the crowd and up the atmosphere so they help get on top of the opposition.
2) United forwards must exploit Liverpool’s high line
Red Bull Salzburg exposed Liverpool’s defensive vulnerability before the international break. They play a high line and are exposed to pace and United showed against Chelsea on the opening day that they can exploit a similar system.
The Red Devils have struggled to create much when team’s stay deep against them, but the likes of Daniel James, Marcus Rashford and perhaps Mason Greenwood will get a lot of space in behind on Sunday. They need to pick their moments and make the most of their opportunities when they come.
3) Liverpool’s front three need to have an off day
The Reds scraped a win in their last away fixture against Sheffield United. They needed an error from Dean Henderson to grab the three points. Both Mo Salah and Sadio Mane missed clear cut chances in the game, and United fans will have to hope they have a similar off day this weekend.
4) Rashford has to be sharp
Before the international fixtures, the 21-year-old’s confidence looked shot. He was a ghost against Newcastle, but hopefully, his goal for England against Bulgaria will get him back on his game.
Anthony Martial is unlikely to be fit to start on Sunday so Rashford has to be on his ‘A’ game if the home side are to get the win.
5) Liverpool’s full-backs need to be pushed back
As I mentioned above, Liverpool don’t have technicians in midfield to provide their creativity. Most of their chances come from out wide. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are assist kings.
The only way to stop them is to ensure that the wingers are pressing as high up the pitch as possible so the fullbacks get pushed back into the defensive third of the pitch. It’s a risky strategy but it could pay dividends if it nullifies the opponent’s main creative threat.