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Colin from The Busby Babe stops by for a lovely chat

To get a feel about how the opposition feels ahead of the big match between Liverpool and Manchester United, I asked Colin Damms from The Busby Babe blog a few questions.

The Liverpool Offside: Manchester United are in first place this late in the season for the first time since Fergie retired. How’s that feel?

The Busby Babe: It feels good, but that comes with its own anxieties that I haven’t felt since then either. I’m nervous that it’ll collapse any moment, just because we haven’t maintained any sort of positive team building progress since Sir Alex, but it’s exciting being in that position again. More than anything I’ve missed games mattering as much as the hype for Sunday would indicate, and actually expecting United to be able to perform at a high level in games that matter. Hoping it can turn into a title race, but they need to start winning big games like this too.

TLO: What’s been the key to United’s away form this season?

TBB: I think the absence of fans has made road games less difficult, and certainly seems to have affected our home form earlier in the season. The team has also played really well in the second half of games, and I think they kind of tapped into their early road wins as a source of momentum when things seemed to be collapsing after the Champions League exit.

TLO: How will United line up on Sunday and how are you expecting the game to go?

TBB: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred, Bruno, Pogba; Rashford, Martial

Really have no clue what Ole is thinking for this one, but he does seem to like the Diamond a bit. Cavani also played the full game at Burnley, and I’m not sure starting him more than once a week is a good idea with his recent injury history.

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Liverpool welcome historic rivals Manchester United to Anfield knowing that a victory would put them back on top of the Premier League table on goal difference but anything less means United end matchweek 18 as league leaders. Stick with The Liverpool Offside for full coverage of Sunday’s match.

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Injuries have kept him from playing at Anfield

Not often do we talk about a player signed in one transfer window making his home debut in another transfer window, but that’s the case with Thiago Alcântara. The midfield hasn’t played at Anfield yet because of a run on the treatment table. That could change on Sunday when Liverpool face Manchester United. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was asked about Thiago on Friday in his press conference and this is what he had to say.

“We will see,” Klopp said. “The most important thing is he’s fit, trained, all good. He had now 90 and 45 minutes in the last two games. So, we will see if he can play, which position he will play because there are obviously different options and all that stuff.

“But it’s really good to have him around now because he’s a really good guy and obviously an exceptional football player. It’s like a new signing obviously.

“Now he’s here and let’s hope that it will stay like this for a long, long, long time.”

Give the injuries that Liverpool have elsewhere on the pitch, Thiago would make a huge difference.

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It’s a top of the table clash when Liverpool host Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.


LIVERPOOL VS. MANCHESTER UNITED

| Sunday, January 17th |Premier League | Anfield4:30PM GMT/11:30AM EST

It feels like it’s been a very long time since we all got to watch Liverpool play football. It’s been even longer since we’ve been through a game against Manchester United. But on Sunday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will arrive at Anfield sitting above Liverpool at the top of the table.

Liverpool have had a poor run of recent form thanks to several key injuries, particularly in the defense. A loss against Southampton in the league was a blow that cost them their hold on the top spot. However, the Reds rarely lose twice in a row, and they’ll understand how much of a morale-booster it would be to break their winless streak against their bitter rivals.

Jürgen Klopp has not ruled out Joel Matip to play alongside Fabinho in the heart of the defense. However, it remains to be seen if Matip really is fit to play a whole game, or if we’ll see another game with Rhys Williams in the line up.

Whoever does earn the right to start with face a tough test against Manchester United’s in form players like Fernandes and Marcus Rashford.

Good news on the horizon for Liverpool, however, is that Thiago Alcantara should slide right into the midfield for his Anfield debut, which will be a huge injection of talent into a side that has been waning in the last month or so.

This game will be Klopp’s 200th match in charge of the team, and he’ll want to cap off that milestone with a win.


Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané


Gonna be conservative about the odds of Matip starting, but I’d love to be wrong. If anything, he’ll may be on the bench. Diogo Jota, Kostas Tsimikas, Joe Gomez, and Virgil van Dijk are all long term absences. Naby Keita will sit this one out as a precaution. I know I should be used to seeing all of those names on the injury list, but it’s still daunting looking at it written out like that.

For Man United, Anthony Martial is looking at a late fitness test to determine if he can play. Brandon Williams, Phil Jones, and Victor Lindelof are all missing from the defense.


What the Managers Had to Say

Jürgen Klopp: “But it’s an open game – it was always an open game. Very often when we played United with different managers we had to be dominant in the games, especially when Jose was there. Now with Ole, we will see exactly. Usually they change systems against us and played now I think 10 times or so with four in the back. Against us, PSG and Leipzig and so on, they still played with five in the back. Maybe they will change.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “I think football and the results in general have sown how important the fans are. We have not lost away in the league since Anfield last year – that is a lot to the fans not being there. It is not home or away advantage. Compared to normal it is a bit of an advantage, it is not just a cliche that you need your supporters.”


The Officials

Referee: Paul Tierney. Assistants: Lee Betts, Constantine Hatzidakis. Fourth official: Craig Pawson. VAR: Stuart Attwell. Assistant VAR: Stuart Burt.

Kickoff is set for 4:30PM GMT/11:30AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.

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The Egyptian talks about his frustration with being subbed out of games.

Much has been made about Mohamed Salah’s visible frustration at being subbed off the pitch during games. It’s clear that Mo wants his goal, and isn’t satisfied if he gets the hook before he manages to grab it.

In an interview with BeIn Sports, Salah discussed his feelings, putting into words what we already knew about him.

“I want to play every minute and every game,” he said bluntly. In fact, he added, he didn’t just want to play 90 minutes. “I want to play 95 minutes, not just 90! But I do respect the manager’s decisions.”

Asked about the title race that Liverpool are involved in, Salah admitted that the lack of fans makes everything much more difficult.

“The situation is completely different now due to the coronavirus, as every team has an equal chance of winning because of the fans’ absence. It’s still early to predict a Premier League winner this season. Everyone is close, but I hope we win it again.”

Tomorrow will be the first big test of their fortitude as the Reds welcome old rivals Manchester United to Anfield. United are in a good run of form that saw them recently overtake Liverpool at the top of the table. A win against them on Sunday will be a statement of intent from a Liverpool side who have seen injuries and exhaustion cause them to wane in recent weeks.

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Sending out some positive vibes ahead of tomorrow’s match.

There’s lots of negativity circulating around the place these days. And it’s understandable. We have just two points in the last three matches. Manchester United are top of the table (excuse me, I just threw up a little in my mouth). They have the best away record in the league, and have a good chance of ending our ridiculous home unbeaten run and going six points clear at the top (excuse me, I just recreated that scene from Team America).

Anyway, we need some good vibes. And what better way to get some good vibes than by reliving some incredible goals from yesteryear. The list—compiled by the club’s official YouTube site—has many of the usual suspects. There are goals from Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Sadio Mané, and of course Mohamed Salah’s incredible “we’re gonna win the league” moment from last year.

Of course, there’s a bit of Virgil van Dijk scoring and giving the Mancs wicked side-eye for good measure.

Liverpool sure could use a few moments like these tomorrow. Especially since United are nailed-on for at least one soft-as-a-feather pen from the not-at-all biased English referees.

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The Senegalese striker hopes to get the season back on track against our biggest foe. Same, Sadio. Same.

The last few weeks have not been so much fun for Liverpool Football Club. Poor finishing, baffling referee decisions, lackluster performances, injures, and a stunning Danny Ings strike have all conspired to result in just two points from the last three outtings.

But Liverpool have an opportunity to turn things around—in a big way—when old foes Manchester United come to town. A win, any win, would put the Reds back on top of the pile. Three points tomorrow would certainly go a long way to put the last few frustrating matches behind us.

The lads are well aware of tomorrow’s stakes. Unsurprisingly, one of the lads who wants to win the most is Sadio Mané.

“Yes, everything starts at the training ground,” Sadio explained to the club’s official website. “At the training ground you have to show all the things like desire, attitude and all of these things, then in the game you can see it.

“The difficult moment has happened, it was not the first time for us, but we are more mature and we know these kind of things [can happen]. It is behind us and, as I said, now we’re looking forward to the Manchester United game.

“[Man United] are doing well and they are a good team – a very good team. It is another test for us to see what we can achieve. Like I’ve said in the past years, for sure we want to win the league – and if we want to win the league, we have to beat the best.

“Manchester United are one of them. It’s an exciting game, I think everybody is excited about the game – we are also. These kind of games, we are really, really, really looking forward to. I think it’ll be exciting for everyone.”

Liverpool will still have plenty of work ahead of themselves, even if the see off United on Sunday. A few fringe players, and a not-at-all-fringe Thiago, are returning from injury, though the team is desperately in need of defensive reinforcements.

But. But if we can beat United, it might just be the turning point this season needs.

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The Liverpool legend believes the battle for the Premier League is still between Liverpool and Manchester City

Liverpool vs Manchester United is always one of the biggest, most scrutinized Premier League fixtures of the season. It carries additional gravitas when England’s two most successful clubs occupy the top two spots in the table as they will when they kickoff at Anfield on Sunday.

Before the season began, not many would have predicted that United would sit three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the table for their first meeting, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team is piling up the points as Liverpool and Manchester City both struggle to live up to their billing as the clear favorites to challenge for the title.

Despite United’s table position and superior recent form, John Barnes is not convinced that they can truly be considered title contenders just yet. In a recent interview with BonusBetCodes, the Liverpool legend made it clear he believes only one Manchester club can stop the Reds from defending their Premier League title.

“Liverpool are not in direct competition with Manchester United in my opinion. Liverpool are only in competition with Manchester City for the title,” said Barnes.

“There is of course competition because it’s Liverpool vs Manchester United and all of the history that comes with it, they are the two biggest clubs in the Premier League. But in reality, in terms of the favorites to win the league, it is whoever finishes higher than Liverpool or Manchester City.”

The former Liverpool winger did give the Red’s rivals credit for not allowing their league form to dip after being bounced from the Champions League and League Cup, but their previous failures to find consistency under Solskjaer and the drama behind the scenes give him pause when considering their title contender resume.

“It’s good for Manchester United that even after getting knocked out of the League Cup by or not progressing in the Champions League that they’re actually managing some consistency in the league,” Barnes said.

“But of course, that can change if they (Manchester United) lose one or two matches because we still understand that the harmony of Manchester United isn’t completely right. There are question marks about Pogba, is Ole the right manager for them, we still aren’t sure.”

Though their current run of 11 league matches without a loss is impressive, the former England international thinks United need to rally behind Solskjaer and find a way to avoid the off the pitch issues that have plagued them in recent years if they wish to finish ahead of Liverpool and City.

“If Manchester United really wanted to make a big push, they should all get behind the manager and support the cause, because they haven’t done that. Bad news stories have to stop coming out to Manchester United for them to maintain further consistency.”

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The former Manchester United manager explained why Henderson’s running style gave him pause when he wanted to sign the midfielder.

Most people who supported Liverpool in 2013 will remember when Sir Alex Ferguson criticized Jordan Henderson’s running style in his second autobiography. The longtime Manchester United manager speculated that Henderson’s apparently unconventional gait might even lead to injury problems down the line.

“We noticed that Henderson runs from his knees, with a straight back, while the modern footballer runs from his hips,” said Ferguson in his book. “We thought his gait might cause him problems later in his career.”

The comments from United’s recently retired manager about the Liverpool midfielder caused great consternation among supporters at the time and even led to some criticism of the Scotsman from manager Brendan Rodgers. He saw the comments as unnecessary, wrong, and potentially damaging to hear for a young footballer.

Seven years on, Ferguson has finally added some clarity to his thoughts on Henderson’s running, and they paint a more positive picture of his opinion towards the English international than his original comments.

Speaking during a virtual charity event for the Alzheimer’s Society, Ferguson revealed that he was actually very interested in making a move for Henderson before his scouting and medical teams swayed him.

“There was criticism from Brendan Rodgers about my assessment of Jordan. The actual story was we were ready to make a bid for him at Sunderland,” admitted Ferguson. “I spoke to Steve Bruce (Sunderland’s manager). Our scouting/medical department said they weren’t happy with his running style.”

“They said he could be the type to get injuries. I had to make sure players would always be available. But we loved Jordan as a player.”

Ferguson was eventually proven correct about Henderson’s ability, and, to his credit, he readily admits that the stories he hears about Liverpool’s captain point to United missing out when they were scared off by Henderson’s running.

“He has proved that now. All the stories I hear about him tell me that I missed out on a really good person.”

It’s weird to think that Henderson could have been wearing United red instead of Liverpool red, but I think we can all be thankful that the Manchester United scouting and medical staff were so worried about the way Henderson runs.

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Pizzas are seen left next to a Mural of Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford after he receiving a MBE created by Artist Akse on November 07, 2020 in Manchester, England.
Pizzas are seen left next to a Mural of Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford after he receiving a MBE created by Artist Akse on November 07, 2020 in Manchester, England. | Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Online, fans have debated the best way to honor Marcus Rashford’s work to feed needy kids at Anfield — or if he should be honored at all.

The Manchester United striker has the respect of most football fans due to his efforts in securing food for children in poverty in the UK over the past year, with Rashford spending time and energy challenging those in power to better provide for children in need. As fans were allowed back in stadiums this past winter, the suggestion that Rashford would be applauded by those in Anfield emerged online and met with very little debate; it seemed as though rivalry would be set aside to briefly honor the player’s off-the-pitch actions, with a Manchester United player being set to be applauded pre-match Anfield — an absolutely incredible turn of events if the wider context is removed.

Due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the UK, however, fans are no longer in the stadiums, and there is no quick way to recognize the player’s social justice efforts — if one feels they should be recognized at all. This has become a debate on Twitter and Facebook over the past week, and opinions vary following a report that a banner might be coming to recognize Rashford’s work.

There are three potentialities being discussed: a banner on the Kop; a banner in the Anfield Road End (or just pre-match); or, nothing visible for Rashford — a belief that he should be respected for his work only on days where he doesn’t suit up to play against the Reds.

To first focus on the last option, many believe that though his efforts are worthy of respect, the proper way to show appreciation is not in a derby, and definitely not with a banner. Indeed, many are disgusted with the idea that a Manchester United player would be recognized in Anfield at all — imagine, some suggest, Rashford scoring in front of his banner in a match the Reds very much need to win: a distasteful picture to a number of LFC accounts online.

Those who believe nothing should be done to visibly honor Rashford are themselves in split camps: some believe Reds should show him no respect (whether it be applause in the ground or recognition of his work online) while many believe other action should be taken to contribute to his cause — perhaps in pre-match foodbank donations or a banner focused on feeding children — without the use of the Manchester United star’s name, specifically.

Of course, some feel there is no place for “politics” in football, a debate that rings somewhat false in the face of Liverpool’s own history. These people feel (presumably) that all political banners in the Kop should be removed, let alone adding a banner to honor a Manchester United player. There is also a suggestion that those who might support a banner in any part of the ground don’t “get” the club or the city (though this litmus test is itself challenged by many self-proclaimed Scousers, too), as well as arguments that his discussions with the S*n newspaper despite widespread criticism disqualify him from any plaudits, at least on Merseyside.

Still others seem not to get what the uproar is about, or at least not during a pandemic: exceptional times call for exceptional responses, after all. Hunger sees no club colors, these people believe, and what Rashford has done is unprecedented, and thus calls for unprecedented responses.

The discussion is rich and varied (though it is online, so there’s always going to be a level of trolling), with well-articulated points made in each of the many options. Where do you stand?

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