Didi Hamann has tipped Manchester United to come out on top over his former club Liverpool due to the absence of key forward Sadio Mane.
The Red Devils, who are currently on a 14-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, face the Merseysiders on Sunday as the race for the Premier League title heats up.
United would close the gap to two points on their arch-rivals if they win the battle at Old Trafford after Jose Mourinho had come under criticism for their early-season form.
Hamann believes Mourinho has taken a “step back” from an “erratic” opening to the campaign and that is one of the reasons for United’s dramatic turnaround in fortunes.
“There was a time a few weeks ago when United had a seven or eight-point gap to fourth place, and the deficiency now is two points,” Hamann told Sky Sports. “They’re in touching distance with all the other teams apart from Chelsea so Mourinho is a lot more safe.
“His behaviour was a bit erratic at the start of the season, and he took a step back for whatever reason.
Fergie asks to sit on team bus. Mourinho lets Fergie sit on team bus…https://t.co/yoUqKMq4ta
— Football365 (@F365) January 10, 2017
“Perhaps someone at the club had a word with him and said at Man Utd he can’t get away with things he may have done at other clubs. I think that’s part to do with the form they’ve found, they look a far happier outfit.
“At the start of the season I tipped him to win the Premier League. Whether a 10-point lead for Chelsea is too much I’m not sure, but I still believe United have the most talented squad and once Mourinho’s teams get going they can be very hard to stop.
“You’ve got to watch out for them in every competition, and in the Premier League I think they’ll be a team to watch out for in the coming months.”
Mane will miss the crucial clash in Manchester on Sunday due to African Cup of Nations duty and Hamann thinks that could be vital to the outcome of the match.
“Mane has been one of the most influential players in the first part of the season,” Hamann added. “So I think United, who nullified Liverpool at Anfield [in a goalless draw in October] might have the edge on Sunday.”