Manchester United fans are currently stuck between a rock and a hard place. Barring an earth shattering run by one of the London sides, either Liverpool or Manchester City will win the Premier League title this season. United will obviously want to win on Sunday, but doing so would give their neighbours from across town a massive helping hand.
One thing in their favour is that Anfield has been anything but a hard place for United in recent seasons. Liverpool won the Europa League clash in 2016, but the Red Devils have won two and drawn two of the last four Merseyside meetings in the Premier League. Plus David Moyes was in charge of United when Liverpool last won, so that doesn’t even count really, does it?
However, the problem with history is that the 2018/19 incarnation of United is making it look exactly that. If Liverpool score twice – and you can get odds of 21/10 that they will – then Mourinho’s side will have already conceded as many league goals this term as they did in the whole of last season. José might try to reapply the handbrake to the bus at Anfield, but it’s almost at the bottom of the hill already.
It’s very difficult to look past a home win. Jürgen’s boys are odds on at 8/15 to take the three points, with United at 5/1 and the draw on offer at 3/1. If those odds for a home win are too skinny for you, how about ‘Liverpool/Liverpool’ in the ‘Half time/Full time’ market at 13/10?
Only three teams in the division have conceded more goals than United in the opening 45 minutes of matches this season, and Klopp’s team have been ahead at both half time and full time in five of their seven league matches at home.
With Liverpool’s defence looking impenetrable on home turf – they’ve conceded just one goal in their last 12 league matches at Anfield – United will have to score first if they’re going to get anything on Sunday.
But unfortunately for them, it’s not what they do in the big games under Mourinho. United have scored first in just four of their league matches against other members of the big six under their current boss, and only one of those has been away from home. In the same period, Liverpool have yet to concede first in a top six clash at Anfield, so get on the Reds to score first, at 2/5.
I’d also bet on them to score the second goal if I could, for a couple of reasons. United have conceded two-or-more goals in eight of their 16 league matches so far this season, while the Reds have netted twice in 10 of theirs.
And the nerdy numbers favour it too. The expected goal stats for 2018/19 predict a 2-0 home win, which has been the joint-most common score line in league games among the big six since José and Pep moved to Manchester. Not together, that would be weird. Good sitcom idea though.
Plus of course Paddy pays out if your side goes two up, so that’s another good reason to hope for the match to go to 2-0. If you want a bet on that score line specifically, it’s available at 13/2 and I wouldn’t argue against it.
A 2-0 score line would also play along with the form in this fixture for total goals and both teams to score. The last six meetings at Anfield have seen a total of just seven goals, with one or both sides drawing a blank in five of them.
United’s 2-1 win in 2015, in which the teams shared just 13 shots, seems like a carnival of free-flowing football and wild abandon compared to most of the tense, terse dour encounters these two have played out.
Only four of Liverpool’s 11 big league matches at home since the start of 2016/17 have seen at least three goals, and two of those were then they battered Wenger’s Arsenal, so barely count.
Man United’s last three trips to face sides from the big six have all seen over 2.5 goals, but there’s only been six in total in Jose’s time in charge, and that’s the joint fewest of the top clubs when they face one another. A bet on under 2.5 goals is available at 11/10, and it’s hard to look past.
Thanks to Mourinho’s ability to strangle the life out of games, none of Liverpool’s illustrious front three have scored against United in the league. But with Salah having scored 33 goals in his 38 appearances at Anfield, and seven in the big six mini league since August 2017 – a tally only Harry Kane can match – he’s the obvious choice in the scorer markets. The Egyptian King is 10/3 to net the opener, or just 4/5 to score at any time.
For slightly longer odds, it’s worth listening to the ballad of Bobby Firmino. While he has played in different positions this season, Klopp tends to use him as the spearhead in the big matches. The Brazilian has had chances worth around six goals in total in the league this season but only scored four, so he might be due a couple before too long. Firmino is 7/5 to find the back of the net.
Meanwhile, United are deemed so unlikely to score that odds on any of their players are quite inviting. Martial – 11/4 to score – is both their man in form and their top scorer in matches among the big six since the start of last season.
In the ‘due a goal’ camp with Firmino is Paul Pogba, though whether Mourinho will let him on the team coach, much less the pitch, remains to be seen. He’s 9/2 to score, but team news is undoubtedly your friend before putting your pennies ‘pon Pogba.
With everything pointing towards a comfortable home win, what do you think Jose will do? Tickets at the ready, folks, the bus is leaving shortly. Don’t remove your seatbelts until it’s parked though please.
*All odds correct at time of posting