Why red hot Liverpool may fall to Manchester United
Background photo: Robert Cutts, CC-BY-SA 2.0
As we head into the dreaded winter, the battle for the Premier League’s Iron Throne for 2018-19 gets pretty heated. Followers of HBO’s Game of Thrones can liken Liverpool to Daenerys Targaryen – relentless and undefeated, with fiery dragons of devastation but still isn’t sure of a crown at season’s end. Neither is Manchester United, who like Jon Snow (Aegon Targaryen), remain outsiders to the throne, despite being the heir.
Hostilities among the Premier League top six mirrors what happens in Game of Thrones; everyone tries to force the other to ‘bend a knee’. Chelsea conquered Arsenal. Spurs broke the backs of Chelsea and Manchester United but fell to Manchester City and Arsenal. Manchester City was unbeaten before they met Chelsea but not after.
Liverpool is yet to be left with a bloodied nose in their encounters with fellow top six sides. They travelled to Wembley and emerged victorious at Spurs. Against Manchester City and Chelsea, it ended in stalemate. This Sunday they’ll face another stern test when Manchester United visit them at Anfield.
The stats support Liverpool
There’s something about Liverpool this season that makes you think they could go all the way. Unless of course, they hit a watershed in the coming weeks. So far everything supports the notion the Reds can only stop themselves.
This is Liverpool’s best start to a top-flight campaign in 126 years. After 16 games, Liverpool has scored 34 goals and garnered 42 points. That’s four points from what Champions Manchester City had, this time last season.
Generally, Liverpool has bettered every Premier League side so far, but they’re best when they play at Anfield. Callum Peterson’s goal for Cardiff in October was the first from an away since February. It remains the only goal they’ve conceded after eight home games this term.
Meanwhile, star striker Mohamed Salah is back to his frightening best. You’ll be forgiven if you didn’t notice Sadio Mane hasn’t scored in nine matches or that Roberto Firmino has just four Premier League goals this season – regardless, the Reds are marching on, led from the front by Mo Salah who’s joint Premier League top scorer with 10 goals.
It’s worthy of mention that Liverpool has the best defence in the League as things stand. They’ve conceded only six times and kept 10 clean sheets already. Whatever was spent on Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker is looking like a bargain.
Can Manchester United cope?
Time to grow up for Manchester United
They’ve picked one win in their last five League games. In that period Manchester United has won a pitiable six points from 15 possible.
We can write it differently and say United has gone four league games undefeated, winning their last match 4-1. Whichever the case, after seven wins, five draws and four defeats, the only thing consistent with this United team is inconsistency.
It’ll take a tactical masterpiece for Jose Mourinho to defeat a side led by Jurgen Klopp, let alone this current Liverpool at Anfield.
Judging by how they’ve performed against other top six sides, getting anything away from this game would be a tall order for Manchester United. Remember though, they’re inconsistent – not only in terms of dropping points.
This encounter provides a pretty good opportunity for Manchester United to change public perception of their ambitions this campaign. They’ve squandered chances against Chelsea, Manchester City and recently Arsenal.
Mourinho’s charges must do better than their record of one clean sheet in 12 matches. They need to produce a defensive masterpiece to pick Liverpool’s pockets. They certainly can.
All eyes will be on Manchester United to end Liverpool’s invincible run which spans 17 league games (if you count from last season). From what we’ve witnessed so far, only top six sides can stop each other.
Complacency is likely to work against Liverpool. It’ll allow Manchester United to walk in and steal the points. But they won’t keep a clean sheet.
Full-time score: Liverpool 2:3 Manchester United.