It is arguably the most eagerly-awaited fixture on the Premier League calendar. Manchester United and Liverpool are the two most successful clubs in English football, separated by only 30 miles of the M62. And as they prepare to face-off at Old Trafford this afternoon, the stakes are high. United are on a six-game winning streak but still sit outside the top four, which is Jose Mourinho’s minimum target. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, meanwhile, are five points ahead of their fierce rivals and only one point behind second-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Victory for either side would be a huge fillip and statement of intent. Here are three key battles that could decide the outcome of this box-office clash.
Jose Mourinho vs Jurgen Klopp
It’s only fitting that a heavyweight encounter features two heavyweight managers. Each will be trying to outthink the other – and whoever wins this battle will likely be celebrating at the final whistle. In the return fixture, Mourinho set his stall out to negate Liverpool with a resolute defensive display. His players carried out those instructions and walked away with a point from a goalless draw. Being at home though, the onus will be on United to start on the front foot, so Mourinho will need to adopt a more expansive approach. His side are in good form and their supporters will expect them to attack what can be a fragile Liverpool defence. However, Klopp will think he can second-guess his rival. While their football philosophies differ, the German has often come out on top, having lost only one of six matches against Mourinho. Generally, Klopp knows only one way to play – all out attack – so it will be interesting to see how he approaches this fixture. Will he exercise more caution? The substitutions may also be key, depending on the state of the game.