Going on how Liverpool spanked United like a wealthy business man looking for some lunchtime relief in Soho in the first leg, unquestionably one-sided but not as vicious as it could have been, it would be easy to dismiss the Mancs’ chances of over-turning the two goal deficit at Old Trafford. Liverpool didn’t look like world beaters but they were sharper, hungrier for the ball and consistently more dangerous going forward. United were, as they too often have been under Louis van Gaal this season, plodding, predictable and possessing the attacking threat of pacifistic panda.
So that’s Liverpool through to the next round of the Europa League then? The odds say yes but the stats offer greater hope than the memory of last Thursday’s schooling ever could.
The first encouraging statistic for Manchester United fans is:
Stat: All 5 of Liverpool’s away defeats this season have been by 2 or more goals
To counter this Liverpool are unbeaten away from home in the Europa League this season, racking up one win and three draws. In fact Liverpool are unbeaten away from home in all competitions bar the Premier League this season, in regular time.
Despite the continuing decline of entertainment standards at Old Trafford since the departure of Sir Alex the club has continued to dominate their oft declared fiercest rivals, particularly at home.
Stat: Manchester United have won 8 of their last 9 home games against Liverpool
To bolster this a little further United have won the last two home games against Liverpool by two or more goals. However a repeat of the 3-1 win in the Premier League back in September would see the Merseysiders progress on away goals. It will take a 3-0 win at least to see United progress inside 90 minutes.
United have overturned two goal deficits in European competition four times in the past. The last two occasions, including against Olympiakos in the Champions League in 2014, they lost the first leg 2-0 away from home and won 3-0 at home in the return leg.
Of United’s 22 wins this season seven have been by three or more goals. A margin which will see them qualify for the next round without any of that messy extra-time and penalties lark.
The stats certainly give United a reasonable chance of getting back in to this tie. We saw in Liverpool’s back-to-back games against Manchester City recently how their performance levels can waver significantly. There’s no guarantee that Jurgen Klopp’s side will impress as they did at Anfield last week but they have started to look more consistent of late going unbeaten in their last nine games.
Liverpool are 1/18 favourites to qualify for the next round for a reason and it’s going to take a poor showing from them and/or a season best performance from United to make a mockery of that. The odds suggest this is all but a one-horse race but the stats suggest there’s hope to be had for Manchester United.