Liverpool have a pretty poor record at Old Trafford in recent years. Since the famous 4-1 win in 2009, the Reds have recorded just one victory in thirteen away visits to United.
However, from the media build-up, it seems that the result is a foregone conclusion. United are in dire straits while Liverpool are flying high so it must surely be a comfortable three points for the Merseysiders.
Football doesn’t work like that, though. Both teams start from 0 at the beginning of the game, and anything can happen within the 90 minutes. At today’s press conference, Jurgen Klopp tried to row back the media narrative that United are there for the taking:
“This game is so easy, the game everyone around it plays. Sky made a combined line-up and had 11 Liverpool players. That’s like a joke, like building a banana skin.”
“The world in the moment is a circus, and we are at the centre – a couple of people want us to win, a couple want us to lose. I’m not influenced by it.”
The Liverpool boss is wise to guard against complacency, especially for the derby where the atmosphere can play an important role in deciding the performance level of the home side. After a perfect start, with eight wins from eight, Klopp will be desperate to ensure nothing derails his team’s focus.
The old adage of “only having to turn up to win” will be at the forefront of the manager’s mind. With every podcast, video and article about the match pointing to a victory, Klopp will be using his lone voice to remind his players that they must keep their concentration.
In many senses, it is similar to last season. United were in better form last February, after beating Chelsea in the FA Cup, but they were far from being a top team. They had lost 2-0 at home to PSG in the Champions League just 12 days before, and injuries in the opening half-hour in the match meant they opted to hold out for a point. This time around, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would probably be happy with a draw even before kick-off.
With all of that information in the minds of the Liverpool players, it would be hard not to believe the hype. Klopp is very wise to try and switch things around. The focus should be on getting the three points as they build a lead ahead of Manchester City in the Premier League title race.
What’s going on at United needs to be filtered out as white noise so the players perform to their best ability. It will only be a banana skin if the players don’t heed Klopp’s words, as this Liverpool side has what it takes to win and win well on Sunday.