According to the finest philosopher of the 1990s, Gary Strang from ‘Men Behaving Badly’, every famous relationship contains a policeman and a silly person.
When it comes to these two fierce rivals, there’s no question Liverpool are silly, with their 7-0 wins and second half meltdowns at Sevilla and Arsenal, whilst United rely on a ruthless, tedious efficiency to get the job done (and a topsy-turvy 3-2 win at Palace doesn’t change that).
It makes it interesting to compare and contrast between the two, but it doesn’t make it easy for bettors.
Here’s one of many examples I could use to prove the point.
Should we bet on under or over 2.5 goals? Paddy is just as indecisive as I am, as the odds are 5/6 for both selections. My money is going under (as it does most weeks), and here’s why.
It’s not news to hear Jose Mourinho is a negative manager, but the state of play in the league table might just re-inforce that to previously unseen levels.
United are two points ahead of Liverpool, so will remain in front of them as long as they don’t lose on Saturday.
Mourinho can’t park the bus with the aplomb of Reg Varney here, as the Old Trafford faithful won’t stand for it, but he’ll send his side out to do everything else in their power not to get beaten. This match could easily be worse to watch than Mrs Brown’s Boys. Yeah, as bad as that.
There have only been over 2.5 goals in three of Jose’s ‘big six’ matches at home with United, and two of those were thanks to Manchester City scoring twice each season. There’ll be under 2.5 goals here, you mark my words.
It’s an even more extreme picture when we look at the stats for both teams to score over the past two years. These teams top and tail the table whether it’s in all games, or just focussing on the big matches.
I’m going to perform an immediate about turn on my earlier ‘go negative’ advice here, and suggest you bet ‘yes’ on both teams to score, which is available at 8/13. Why? If you want to get nerdy with me, the expected goals stats from the season think there’s a far higher chance of it happening than Paddy does.
If you prefer to stick to meat and potato numbers, Liverpool are the highest scoring team on the road in the Premier League in 2017/18, and with 34 away goals they’ve actually scored three more times than United have at Old Trafford this season. Plus, with David de Gea now exposed as the near post fraud he is, the visitors will obviously score, right?
Mourinho may have left Anfield with a 0-0 in his last two visits, but none of United’s big home matches have ended goalless on his watch. It therefore seems reasonable to assume there will be some goals, but which player might score? Here’s some guidance for you, but first a question: What do you notice about this tweet?
There have been 71 goals in matches between the top six in the PL this season. Here's which players have been involved in the most goals. pic.twitter.com/hYNmD6hu6U
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) March 4, 2018
And no, it’s not that my avatar looks like the Watford emblem as I keep being told. It’s that there are no Manchester United representatives at the top of the list. Mohamed Salah has scored as many goals in matches among the top six as the whole United team has this season.
The king of Egypt is the 4/1 favourite to open the scoring, or 7/5 to get on the scoresheet at any time. He is the only player from either side to score the first goal of a big six clash more than once this season, so bear that in mind if taking a punt here.
United are one of the few teams this season to prevent Salah from scoring though, and that’s no mean feat when he has found the net in 25 of his 36 starts for Liverpool. If he scores here, Salah will have done so for eight matches in a row, matching Daniel Sturridge’s best run in 2013/14. He’s a man in white hot form, and surely the player to back if you are of a Liverpool persuasion.
On the United side of the market, the man most likely to net appears to be Alexis Sanchez. Unlike Romelu Lukaku, he has scored more than once in a big match this season. Paddy will give you your money back as a free bet if Lukaku scores, so they obviously don’t think he will either.
But Sanchez has been knocking on the door plenty for United and has only scored once in the league, so might be due another.
Sure, he obviously juked his non-penalty goal stats by missing a spot kick against Huddersfield before tapping in the rebound, but that incident aside he has no goals from his other 11 shots. The Chilean is 12/5 to net against Liverpool, or he is available at 6/1 if you think he will open the scoring.
Jürgen Klopp has faced 24 different teams in the Premier League, and he has the worst points-per-game record against Manchester United. Liverpool have racked up three draws and one defeat from their four meetings in the self-proclaimed greatest league in the world.
But then they also won and drew in the Europa League in 2015/16. On one hand there’s only one win, but on the other there’s only one defeat, so it’s really not an easy game to call.
You may have to see who shouts louder; your inner silly person, or your inner policeman. If you ask me, the policeman might just edge it, but I’ll sit on the fence and go for a 1-1 draw at 11/2.
* All odds correct at time of posting.