Liverpool legend Graeme Souness has insisted that a win for Manchester United against Liverpool would be football’s biggest upset since Wigan Athletic defeated Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup final.
The rivals go into battle with 14th placed United 15 points adrift of Premier League leaders Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp’s men are strong favourites to leave Old Trafford with all three points – something they haven’t done for five years.
Former Red Devil Rio Ferdinand has issued a rallying cry to the Man Utd players, but the odds are stacked aganst them in what many predict to be one of the most one-sided contests in years.
Writing in The Sunday Times, former Reds captain and manager Souness said: “If Manchester United beat Liverpool at Old Trafford today, it will be the biggest upset in top-flight football since Manchester City lost to Wigan in the 2013 FA Cup final.
“I’m not saying that for the effect, I’m not saying it because I’m an ex-Liverpool player.
“I’m saying that because that’s what all the relevant indicators signify: the strength on paper of the respective squads; the fitness of key players (Paul Pogba out for United and maybe David de Gea too); the fact that Jurgen Klopp knows his best starting XI and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clearly doesn’t; and recent form — eight league wins out of eight for Liverpool, just one win from their past seven for their opponents.
“These are dangerous times at Old Trafford so the visit of their rivals, whose confidence is sky-high, is the last thing they need.
“Usually when you have a ‘derby game’ — and that’s what today’s fixture effectively is — you can make a case for the underdog winning, whatever the gulf in class between the two sides.
“Sometimes you’re banking on their sheer doggedness or passion to get a result.
“Those qualities, however, have been in short supply of late at Manchester United.
“Look at Liverpool’s likely line-up, on the other hand, and it’s hard to find the Achilles heel.
“If Sadio Mane doesn’t score then Mo Salah will, but don’t for a moment think that Roberto Firmino is the junior partner in the offensive spearhead. His touch and running off the ball are the glue which holds that trio together.”
Souness believes that Liverpool’s ‘unsung heroes’ are also crucial elements within what is a well-oiled machine.
He added: “Nobody will ever be boasting to their grandchildren about having had the good fortune to have watched Jordan Henderson , Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner in action, but the way those three combine in midfield is integral to their club’s success.
“They know their role in the game plan and every strain of sinew they make says to the opposition: ‘However hard you work, we will work harder.’
“They harass and hamper the opposition and when the inevitable poor touch or stray pass hands possession back to Liverpool, they are adept in moving it on to the more dazzling talents in front of them.
“Their efficiency also makes life a lot easier for the Liverpool defence, though it’s not as if that area of the field is a weak link either.
“If there is a question mark hanging over Klopp’s team then it is only the dependability of stand-in keeper Adrian in Alisson’s absence.
“So far, however, they have just about got away with it. What Solskjaer would give for his biggest concern to be his reserve goalkeeper.
“From the man in goal through to striker, he is looking at a set of individuals who are short on flair, form or fitness. It’s difficult to see when that is going to change.”