When an event is prefixed with Red, you just KNOW shit's about to go down. Just ask JRR Martin (joke stolen from @bifurcated_mbm).
Here we go, Liverpool vs Manchester United. THIS is where the season starts (according to Sir Alex Ferguson).
Where the hell do you start with this one? Here's the ancient history:
Since 1894 Manchester United (formerly Newton Heath) have played 196 fixtures with Liverpool.
Ryan Giggs tallies the most appearances at 48 with Steven Gerrard, George Wall and Sandy Turnbull tying the top scorer status on 9 goals in this fixture.
The current all time W/L/D tally is as follows:
Liverpool - 65
Manchester United - 79
Draw - 52
But none of it means anything... Flash forward to recent history and United haven't lost to Liverpool in the league since 2014 and in the last two league meetings at Anfield, United have taken all three points. But, Liverpool look good. Really good. ("Please lord, please tell Rooney to stay at home" - Hanna).
The rivalry between these clubs has been so well documented that it's barely worth adding to the narrative here, but how will this game translate into hours slaving over art boards and sharpening pencils for our artists?
El Klopp has formed a well-balanced, well-disciplined side (forgetting the defence) while JoMou is doing the ultimate in with the old, in with the new. What do Van and Hanna, #giftofagal's Liverpool and Manchester United artists make of this round:
HANNA - MANCHESTER UNITED
Wake me up when it's over please.
There's going to be goals. So many goals. I just hope United wear white socks (easier to draw).
United actually have the rare advantage of a fully fit squad (Phil Jones sidelined doesn't count), however, Jose is still at a fairly experimental stage of the team's development meaning that most pundits have relegated United's chances of taking all three points to underdog status.
With just one win from the last four league games under their belts, United are hardly making strides in the form game.
The Reds (Manc) could really do with a Zlatan style pick-me-up and if Rooney continues to be dropped, maybe the blood, guts and thunder of a derby atmosphere can finally mean that Pogba can reach that mythical "top gear" he's been bragging about.
Saying that, a Rashford hat-trick after coming off the bench would be a thing of beauty.
Prediction: 2-2. Rooney leaves UK for MLS.
VAN - LIVERPOOL
The hosts are currently 4th (5-1-1) and the visitors are 6th with a record of 4-1-2. The more pedantic viewer might point out - owing to the quality of each team’s opposition so far - that the separation isn’t as close as the table suggests. By week 7 of the season, Liverpool had already played three of the current top seven teams (including two in the top four), while United has drawn the bulk of its opposition from teams sitting squarely in midtable, or within an easy slide of the relegation zone.
Though that's about to change -- the fixture now jumps into a new gear beginning with the visit to Anfield, which kicks off nearly two months straight of grueling competition. In their next eight Premier League games, five have them facing peers from the top of the table — between which, they will also have to squeeze in three Europa League meetings with the likes of Fenerbahce, and worse, Feyenoord (currently first place in Eredivisie and undefeated in nine games).
If Liverpool side were to start in full strength, it’d likely be a wash. Liverpool’s been gleefully raining goals, but has yet to keep a clean sheet. However, with injuries threatening to sideline Clyne and Lallana, mainstays of the recent starting XI's left side, the scoreline may just tip to the visitors. At this time, availability for these two players remains Doubtful — especially unfortunate, as United’s most dangerous attacks come from the left. Leading the club this season in both goals scored and shots attempted is superstar striker Ibrahimavoic, who favors that side.
Following close behind in scoring is Anthony Rashford, and shots attempted is Paul Pogba — both of whom are positioned there as well. However, Pogba’s shooting is versatile enough to draw coverage from right-side defenders Milner and Lovren (or Lucas, if Lovren remains unavailable due to injury).
More worries for coverage in the midfield include the potential absence of Wijnaldum, injured on international duty for the Netherlands. Lallana's status is doubtful due to sustaining injuries from the last league game against Swansea, which would leave Henderson the lone remaining regular of the middle three. Though Milner’s proven excellent in Klopp’s new niche for him at left back, expect him to provide reinforcement in the midfield, as Mata and Herrera create pressure around Henderson.
If having to reconfigure defense going into this high-stakes game wasn’t bothersome enough, there had already been trouble in goal. Klopp has started newcomer Loris Karius for the last two games, pitting declining veteran Simon Mignolet in a battle to regain his start between the posts. However, Karius has exactly two Premier League appearances to his name. For a matchup of long-time rivals with this much pressure and intensity, supporters may be hoping experience wins out in Klopp’s final XI.
Whatever defensive kinks there may be for the Monday meeting, Liverpool does not need to worry about scoring. After seven weeks, the club is tied with Manchester City for most league goals, and the distribution among the squad is promising. Milner has the largest share of the 18 club goals with 4, and is immediately followed by Firmino, Coutinho, Lallana and Mane, who each have three to their account. (Henderson and Lovren have also added to the season tally, with one each.) Whatever the lineup, whomever the opposition, someone, somewhere, is finding the back of the net. In comparison, Manchester United’s distribution has been much stingier: Of 13 goals, Zlatan has owns four and Rashford has three. Mata has a pair, and the rest are lone goals (Martial, Pogba, Rooney, Smalling.)
Lastly, apropos of nothing, except the sheer pleasure of the entertainment value: be on the lookout for Zlatan-Milner encounters, assuming the latter will have to provide coverage more centrally than usual. Who doesn’t want a good clattering between self-designated “Boring James Milner” and the oft-deified, flashy vanquisher of Danes?
Prediction : 1-0
*Data courtesty: whoscored.com