This afternoon, the age-long rivalry between England’s two most successful sides will be rekindled at Old Trafford as a struggling Manchester United host high-flying Liverpool.
Even though Liverpool have found victory difficult to come by at Old Trafford in recent times, their form and United’s travails means the European champions are favourites to extend their winning run in the Premiership.
An 18th consecutive league win for Liverpool would equal the top-flight record, set by Manchester City between August and December 2017.
After eight games United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær is in crisis-management mode as his plunging side have left him feeling the pressure. If results go the wrong way United could be in the relegation zone with the manager’s job prospects looking grim.
The flip side is that victory over the league leaders could be the springboard to turn fortunes around.
United continue to struggle with injuries, with David De Gea likely to be sidelined. Paul Pogba is definitely out of the match with an ongoing ankle issue and De Gea pulled up with a groin complaint on international duty.
Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka could return but question marks hang over Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot and Mason Greenwood.
In contrast, Liverpool could have their No 1 goalkeeper back as Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports News that Alisson looks ‘completely fine’ after his recent calf injury. But Mohamed Salah and Joel Matip will be assessed ahead of the trip to Old Trafford. Aside from these three, Klopp has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Manchester United are unbeaten in their last six home games against Liverpool, including five league matches (W3, D2). It is the Merseysiders’ longest winless run at Old Trafford in the top flight since a 10-match streak between 1991 and 2000.
United’s only defeat in their last 10 league games against Liverpool was last season’s 3-1 loss at Anfield, a result which prompted manager Jose Mourinho’s dismissal two days later.
Four of the six most recent Premier League meetings have ended in draws (three of them 0-0) – only four of the previous 36 encounters finished level.
United are two short of becoming the first team to score 2,000 Premier League goals. They have not scored more than once in any of their past 10 league and cup games – their worst such run since 2007. They have won just two of their last 13 league matches (D5, L6). They have also earned just 17 points from 16 top-flight matches since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed on a permanent basis.
If United fail to win they will have made their worst start to a league campaign since 1986-87, the season in which manager Ron Atkinson was eventually replaced by Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Red Devils are a team struggling to muster any quality in their game. A loss against Newcastle a fortnight ago condemned them to their worst start in a season for over 30 years.
Meanwhile Liverpool could become just the fourth team to win their opening nine top-flight games, matching the Premier League record set by Chelsea in 2005.
The only team who failed to win the title after winning their first nine matches are Manchester United, who ended fourth in 1985-86 despite beginning with 10 straight wins.
Liverpool have won just two of their last 13 league matches away to the other sides in the established top six, though that includes their most recent such game against Chelsea last month.
Mohammed Salah, who’ll start the game alongside his comrades Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, will look to get an unwanted record off his chest.
The Egyptian has never scored in Liverpool colours versus United in four meetings, nor has he been able to assist a goal.
Jurgen Klopp will mirror Salah’s emotions. The German has never won away against his Manchester-based rivals, drawing three and losing one, more than any other side.
Though titanic shifts in the landscape aren’t currently expected, Liverpool’s possible win at Old Trafford will elevate the team to new highs in the Premier League-era shunning United further into the shadows. For a team that brought most of Premier League football’s iconic moments to billions around the globe, that’s a fate too bleak to handle.