It was a little over two months ago that Liverpool and Manchester United last met, with a stark contrast in pre-Christmas moods at the respective clubs. The Merseysiders were riding high at the top of the Premier League, playing their best football of the season, while the men from Manchester were ailing listlessly under the tyrannical stewardship of Jose Mourinho. A 3-1 home win at Anfield in which Liverpool thoroughly outclassed their opponents proved the final straw for Mourinho at Old Trafford and led many to believe that United were already out of realistic top-four contention.
In the intervening 10 weeks, the mood in Manchester could hardly have changed more drastically. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has inspired a drastic upturn in fortunes for the 20-time English champions, so much so that they now look firm favourites to finish fourth at worst. Liverpool’s form has tailed a little in the meantime, with Manchester City catching up on them at the summit of the Premier League, so a repeat of December’s massacre seems most unlikely at Old Trafford on Sunday. Our statistical analysis looks for clues as to how this eternal grudge match might pan out.
Last six Premier League games
Manchester United: W5, D1, L0, F11, A4, Pts 16
Liverpool: W3, D2, L1, F11, A7, Pts 11
At the beginning of 2019, Liverpool had 54 points and Manchester United had 35. Now, their respective tallies are 65 and 51. In nine Premier League matches under Solskjaer, United have claimed 25 points, only one fewer than Mourinho earned in the preceding 17 games. The only domestic blot on their copybook since then was the 2-2 draw against Burnley at the end of January, and even that felt somewhat like a win after coming from two goals down in the final five minutes. Also, they have scored in each of their last 13 Premier League matches, their last blank coming against Crystal Palace three months ago.
Liverpool had only dropped six points in 20 Premier League games as 2018 drew to a close; they’ve let seven points go in six matches since New Year’s Day. Their one league defeat this season came in Manchester at the start of January when City beat them at the Etihad Stadium. The clean sheet they earned in the 3-0 win over Bournemouth last time around was only the second in their last seven Premier League outings, having had 12 shutouts in the previous 19 matches.
Premier League head-to-head record
Manchester United have won just over half of the Premier League meetings between the pair, with seven of those 28 coming at Old Trafford in the last nine seasons. Only twice since 2009 have Liverpool taken points from the home of their fiercest rivals, a 3-0 win in 2014 and a 1-1 draw two years ago. Going further back, United have won 11 of the last 14 Premier League clashes between these teams at Old Trafford. Liverpool have only won twice here since 2004, but on both of those occasions, they ran out three-goal winners and both came at roughly this stage of the season in campaigns where the Merseysiders were in strong contention for the league title.
With 16 red cards in previous Premier League meetings between the two, it is the second-likeliest fixture on the calendar to see the referee reaching for his top pocket – only the Merseyside derby has seen more red cards (21) in this league. Four of those 16 sendings-off have been incurred by Nemanja Vidic, including in three consecutive meetings in a 13-month period at the end of the last decade.
Last Old Trafford meeting
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool, 10 March 2018
Almost a year ago, a quickfire double from Marcus Rashford was enough to give United all three points at Old Trafford. After Virgil van Dijk missed a very good chance for Liverpool in front of the Stretford End, Rashford made the most of Romelu Lukaku’s flick-on at the other end to open the scoring on 14 minutes, bamboozling Trent Alexander-Arnold on a difficult afternoon for the inexperienced right-back. Shortly afterwards, the young England striker doubled his tally when he swept the ball home after Juan Mata’s initial effort was blocked.
Having had an uncharacteristically enterprising approach in this fixture under Mourinho in the first half, United reverted to defensive mode after the interval, with Liverpool dominating territory but requiring the unfortunate intervention of Eric Bailly to halve the deficit, the Ivorian turning a Sadio Mane cross into his own net. The visitors pushed hard for an equaliser and Marouane Fellaini was incredibly fortunate not to give away what appeared a stonewall penalty, but this was another day when David de Gea was inspired by the sight of Liverpool to produce an almost superhuman display.
Respective records against fellow top six teams
Total: P7, W3, D3, L1, F13, A7, Pts 12
Away: P4, W1, D2, L1, F5, A5, Pts 5
This is the last of Liverpool’s trips to a top-six rival in 2018/19, having already visited Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. Their record in those games is played one, drawn two and lost one, a September victory at Wembley followed by draws on their next two visits to London before that defeat at the Etihad a few weeks ago. The Reds have scored in each of those games, but didn’t keep a clean sheet in any of them either. Chelsea and Spurs still have to visit Anfield, where Manchester City have drawn this season and Manchester United and Arsenal were both beaten in December.
Total: P6, W1, D2, L3, F7, A13, Pts 5
Home: P2, W0, D1, L1, F2, A5, Pts 1
After Sunday, United still have Manchester City and Chelsea to come to Old Trafford. Their previous home clashes against top-six rivals ended in a heavy defeat by Tottenham back in August and a 2-2 draw with Arsenal in which they twice came from behind. Solskjaer’s men have visited four of the current Premier League top six this season, losing at Manchester City and Liverpool but drawing at Chelsea and winning away at Spurs.