It’s a bitter rivalry in which pride is valued just as much as the points up for grabs each match, and Saturday’s clash between two top EPL clubs Manchester United and Liverpool will take on added significance with the race to finish second in the Premier League about to reach boiling point.
It’s generally accepted around media and spectators that Manchester City will stroll to the title this year – they remain well clear at the summit with nine rounds of matches to come, and so the red halves of Manchester and Merseyside, and perhaps Tottenham, are left battling it out for the runners-up spot.
Every time these two sides meet the passion and ferocity is tangible, and you sense they could play a charity game behind closed doors and emotions would still threaten to boil over. Add into the mix the importance of the three points here, and the lunchtime clash at Old Trafford could well be one for punters to savour.
There have been more than 225 meetings between Manchester United and Liverpool dating back to 1894; it’s fair to say this is one of the oldest rivalries in professional football. It’s the Red Devils who hold a narrow head-to-head lead over their Liverpudlian rivals, although the fact they’ve triumphed on 87 occasions, compared to Liverpool’s 75, indicates just how well the pair have been matched the last century.
From a football betting perspective, it’s the modern-day era that really appeals, and it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that the last three Manchester United-Liverpool clashes with Jose Mourinho in the United hot seat have ended 0-0, 1-1 and 0-0. Mourinho's lack of offesnive aggresssion is sure to play a part this weekend and the top online bookmakers are certainly taking notice.
It’s more than just a matter of opinion to suggest that Mourinho’s ego – or pride, if you’re feeling generous – can impact upon his team in ways that are all too evident. The fact that two of the last three United-Liverpool matches have ended in goalless stalemate is much down to his rather conservative management.
Let's just say the footballing term ‘parking the bus’ was created in Mourinho’s honour. He knows how much these matches mean to the United fans, and his own sense of pride dictates that he’s happy with a draw whenever Liverpool are in town; it’s damage limitation, rather than an exploration of the attacking side of the beautiful game.
So, if you’re planning to settle on the sofa to enjoy a lively game of end-to-end football, you may be sorely disappointed watching this week's EPL clash. Mourinho will probably set up with at least seven defence-minded players in his starting 11, and will set Liverpool the daunting challenge of breaking down his red wall.
In the opposite dugout to Mourinho will be Jürgen Klopp, the likeable German who has a habit of getting positive results against his fellow ‘big six’ opposition. Since taking charge at the Reds in October 2015, Klopp’s record against the other elite teams in the English top flight reads W10 D13 L3.
It’s been an outstanding run that has achieved in a way that’s opposite to that of Mourinho’s natural inclination for conservatism. Klopp will instruct his players to press high up the pitch, and close down the United players quickly in an attempt to win back the ball in the Red Devils’ half of the field.
It’s a devastating tactic that enables his side to play on the front foot at all times. And when you have a front three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, who between them have found the back of the net 45 times and counting this term, you have a trio who can win any game with a moment of individual brilliance.
The irresistible force versus the immoveable object; there could be something of a Mexican stand-off on Saturday. Man U have beaten both Tottenham and Chelsea on home soil this season, and so while the instinct will be to back Liverpool to win this match, it would be foolish to disregard Mourinho’s men completely.
But his ‘avoid defeat at all costs’ mentality could prove to be his side’s downfall, as could the roar of the Old Trafford faithful that sweeps United forward, leaving gaps in their defense to take advantage of. For that reason, backing the Reds in the Draw No Bet market at odds of 19/20 with Ladbrokes could prove to be wise. Also worth considering is the Draw bet at Betway being offered at odds of 23/10.