Manchester United v Liverpool: Best bets as the nerdy numbers point to a draw

The biggest fixture in English football takes on an added dimension this Sunday and there's no love lost between these sides...

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Manchester United vs Liverpool is a real clash of the titans. United usually win at Old Trafford, but the form guide makes this a tricky tussle to predict.

Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over, and allowed the players to do revolutionary things like smile and attack, the Red Devils have the best record in the Premier League. Liverpool have won five points fewer in this period, but have had the harder fixtures overall. However, United haven’t won either of their last two home games. They salvaged a point from being two goals down against Burnley, before PSG won with minimum fuss despite two of their best players being injured.

Jürgen Klopp’s team haven’t fared much better away from home recently. They’ve won one of their last three league games on the road, and needed a penalty against out of form Brighton to do it. There have been three meetings in Manchester since Klopp took charge of Liverpool, with two 1-1 draws and a 2-1 United win. Nothing much in it, in other words.

The nerdy numbers are pointing towards a 1-1 draw here too.

The last six 1-1 ties in the big six mini-league have all featured Liverpool, including this fixture in 2016/17.

It looks like the winners of this match might be Manchester City.

Verdict: Draw and both teams to score at 16/5.

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Goal getter

Who scores in this game is not as obvious as you might think.

The top league scorers for each team this season are Paul Pogba and Mohamed Salah respectively, but neither has fond memories of this clash. Pogba has faced Liverpool twice, with his only contribution of note being when he conceded a penalty in the draw two seasons ago. Salah has fared little better.

In three matches for the Reds against the Red Devils he has yet to score.

And his chances have been cumulatively worth less than half an expected goal. The Egyptian King has failed to score against only five of his 33 different opponents with Liverpool, with United the only one of those teams he has faced more than twice. Salah was superbly marshalled out of the game by Ashley Young last season too, which must’ve hurt.

The top scorer of goals against other big six sides at Old Trafford since the start of 2017/18 is Marcus Rashford. Two of his total of three goals came against Liverpool last season too. With five goals in his last eight appearances, the England international is in fine form.

As is Sadio Mané. Prior to Bayern Munich, Liverpool’s number 10 had scored in four matches on the bounce. He also had two clear-cut chances against the German champions so may have extended his scoring run to five had his finishing been a little better.

Mané scored the opener when Liverpool beat United in December and sent Mourinho home to pack his bags at The Lowry too.

Verdict: (United): Marcus Rashford to score anytime at 13/8.
Verdict: (Liverpool): Sadio Mané to score first at 6/1.

Scores on the doors

Liverpool are a good bet to score first here. Only Manchester City have opened the scoring away from home in the big six mini-league more times than they have in the last three seasons. Similarly, only Arsenal have conceded first in more big games at home than United have in that period.

However, while Klopp’s team have broken the deadlock seven times away from Anfield in big league matches since August 2016, they’ve gone on to draw five of them (four with a 1-1 score line). So while Liverpool to score first at 5/6 is a decent bet, there looks to be a better one in them scoring first and not winning.

Verdict: Liverpool to score first and fail to win at 4/1.

Who’ll pay the penalty?

When Manchester United fans heard Michael Oliver was taking charge, they went into meltdown on Twitter. Oliver is perceived as dishing out penalties to Liverpool too readily, which obviously doesn’t endear him to Mancs. Across his career, the Geordie ref has given the Reds a spot kick every 4.5 matches. For United, that figure ‘rises’ to 4.8.

You can sympathise with their fans’ burning sense of injustice, can’t you? Oliver has reffed this fixture twice, awarding a penalty both times. Anyone fancy him to bring up the hat-trick on Sunday?

Verdict: Penalty to be awarded at 6/4.

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What do you think?