Manchester United are looking to bounce back from a 2-1 reverse at Swansea City when they host Liverpool on Saturday. Earlier this term, the Red Devils laboured to 1-0 win over Tottenham and Aston Villa respectively, as well as a 0-0 draw against Newcastle United.
With plenty of investment made during the transfer window, manager Louis van Gaal is expected to challenge for trophies this term and the Dutchman – whose side did the double over Liverpool last season – will be keen for improvements at Old Trafford.
The highly anticipated match kicks off at 5.30pm Nigerian time on Saturday.
Juan Mata who scored Spain’s goal in the game against Macedonia believes that Manchester United Vs Liverpool is the biggest duel in English Premier League.
“You cannot know it if you don’t live it from the inside,” Mata told United’s pre-match programme.
“I knew when I came to England that United-Liverpool was one of the biggest games, but when you are inside it and part of it, you realise it is the biggest.
“The history of both clubs, the rivalry… you can feel it from the start of the week before the game, it’s unbelievable. When we lost my first game against them, it was very disappointing and you could feel it in the atmosphere and among the fans.
“But when we won 3-0 and also won at Anfield, it’s something the people never forget, so it’s always a massive game for us,” the left-footed creator is quoted as saying.
Mata scored in the 3-0 win over Liverpool at Old Trafford before his stunning scissor-kick volley sealed a 2-1 win at Anfield in the closing few weeks of the season, and the former Chelsea man admits it was a special moment.
“People I meet in the street always remember that game and it’s something that will always be there for me,” he said.
“The week after it, every day at the training ground everyone came up to me and congratulated me and you could feel that for all the staff at United and for every supporter around the world, that game was something special.”
Manchester United boss, Louis Van Gaal, will need to contend with media reports that some of United’s senior players are unhappy with his methods, which are sure to face further scrutiny should Liverpool return to Merseyside with all three points.
Captain Wayne Rooney has not scored in his past 10 Premier League games, but the striker will be buoyed by becoming England’s record goalscorer during the international break – surpassing United legend Bobby Charlton’s tally of 49.
Rooney, the former Everton man who always relishes this fixture due to his Merseyside roots, could have a new strike partner with Anthony Martial in line to make his debut after the teenager joined from Monaco.
For Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers will demand a response after his side were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by West Ham at Anfield last time out but his team’s chances of winning this game has been decimated with the red card to playmaker Phillipe Coutinho before the international break which makes him unavailable for this game.
Liverpool started the campaign with unconvincing 1-0 wins over Stoke City and Bournemouth before a 0-0 draw against Arsenal.
While there is plenty of expectation among supporters, midfielder Lucas Leiva has called on Liverpool to keep a check on their emotions.
“We have to try to approach it the same way we approach every single game but we know there is a lot of talking and the fans are more excited about it,” Leiva told Liverpool’s official website.
“For the players that have never played, they just have to try to approach it the same way they always do.”
Liverpool still have doubts over captain Jordan Henderson (ankle), Adam Lallana (thigh) and Joe Allen (hamstring), while Michael Carrick (calf) is a doubt for United.
However following the well-publicised collapse of David de Gea’s transfer to Real Madrid on transfer deadline day, Liverpool shot-stopper Simon Mignolet has little doubt his opposite number will become United’s number one choice again after uncertainty over his future consigned him to the bench.
The Spaniard was in action for his country in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Macedonia which the European champions won 1-0.
“It is always difficult to tell what is going on looking from the outside. The only thing I know is he is a very good goalkeeper who has proved himself to be very important for Manchester United over time. I think he has all the abilities to play again,” Mignolet said.
“The mental aspect of being a goalkeeper is very important so you have to go into the game with full concentration and confidence. That is a big part of your game and the Premier League is the most demanding league for any goalkeeper.