Managers need result more than clubs in small-stakes Liverpool and United meeting
Expect plenty of entertainment at Anfield on Sunday after English football's two great rivals both rediscovered their scoring form in midweek
The second meeting of the season between Liverpool and Manchester United can rarely have had so little riding on it.
Granted, victory for either side would be hugely valuable to their chances of finishing inside the top four.
Yet the fact that such a feat realistically represents the pinnacle of achievement for the rest of the season says much for the struggles that English football’s two most successful clubs are enduring.
United’s impotence in front of goal under Louis van Gaal has been well-documented, while Liverpool had never scored fewer goals at the same stage of the season than before their midweek game against Arsenal.
However, with both teams partaking in thrilling 3-3 draws during the week that is not to say that Sunday lunchtime’s encounter at Anfield will not provide plenty of entertainment – with the game 13/2 to include over 4.5 goals once again.
With United conceding a late equaliser to relegation-threatened Newcastle and Liverpool scoring one of their own against table-topping Arsenal, the two great rivals certainly head into the match in contrasting moods.
Roberto Firmino and Wayne Rooney each bagged a brace in those outings, and the pair are 9/1 to both score at the weekend.
Rooney has now found the net for his club in three successive games for the first time since September 2013 – with the rejuvenated United and England skipper also 7/2 to register three or more shots on target and 4/1 to provide an assist.
His spectacular second at St James’ Park meant that he equalled Thierry Henry’s record of scoring 175 Premier League goals for a single club.
Remarkably, only one of those strikes has come at Anfield – coincidentally on this very same weekend 11 years ago – and Rooney is 5/1 to address that anomaly by scoring first and 6/4 to continue his recent form by netting at any time.
Victory for the hosts, meanwhile - priced at 13/10 - would take them level on points with United as they look to break back into the Champions League.
The Reds’ best performances under Jurgen Klopp – most notably away to Chelsea and Manchester City – have all come in the ‘bigger’ games, and having not lost to any of the top four so far this season it does appear to be consistency rather than quality that is keeping them excluded from the elite.
United may have only won one of their last eight, but they can take heart from having beaten Liverpool in each of their last three meetings – with the visitors 23/10 to register a fourth in a row, something that neither team has done since 2008.
Their 2-1 victory at Anfield last season – featuring a superb brace from Juan Mata – was Van Gaal’s finest moment since taking over at United.
It was a result that virtually cemented their place back in the Champions League matches at Liverpool’s expense, and meant that Brendan Rodgers would be on borrowed time until the inevitable occurred.
Victory in his first match against United would certainly be the perfect way for his successor Klopp to make up for what has been an erratic start to his tenure.
However, with his own job now on the line, it is Van Gaal who needs his side to find a repeat performance from when everything seemed to be going so smoothly.