It may only be early October, but Manchester United could put a huge dent in Liverpool’s season when Jose Mourinho takes his Red Devils to Anfield this Saturday lunchtime.
Whilst the latter remain unbeaten this term – having taken 19 points from their opening seven matches – Jurgen Klopp has encountered a stuttering start with just three league victories so far.
An away win would see United move ten points clear of their Merseyside rivals, and the German Coach will be all-too-aware his side will have to be at their absolute best in order to outmanoeuvre the superb big-game tactics of his Portuguese counterpart.
“I like to play against the best teams, I like to play against the best clubs and I like to play at the best stadiums,” said Mourinho in his pre-match press conference.
“The stadiums with more history. At Anfield I’ve had great moments and I’ve had bad moments. They have had happiness against me, they have had very sad moments against me.”
Many will be expecting Mourinho to shut up shop and hit all-attacking Liverpool on the break, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the tactician will spring a surprise, making use of the attacking prowess of the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial in order to facilitate a tactical shift.
There are those who feel that Klopp – always entertaining both in his persona and brand of football – lacks the ruthless edge of his opposition manager. Of course, Mourinho has won league titles in England, Italy, Spain and Portugal, while Klopp has only ever done so in his native Germany.
“Too much under Klopp seems to be based on that call for passion and excitement,” former England striker Alan Shearer told The Sun this week.
“They play one way and it is not going to win them the league – great going forward on their day but they simply cannot defend. Mourinho, by contrast, has plotted a course to get his team back to the top. He knows how to win even if it means shutting up shop.”
Both sides will have injury concerns to deal with however, Liverpool having been dealt a huge blow with the loss of Sadio Mane for six weeks with a hamstring problem, and Manchester United missing Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini. This might mean that the two sides head into the fixture on a more even keel, and despite the voices that point to Mourinho’s superior experience of victory, Klopp has the head-to-head advantage.
Yet – as with all big managers – ego is always a factor, and both will be looking to assert themselves as the superior one when they go head to head this Saturday.