Ten years on Sunday, Manchester City came to Old Trafford and won 6-1.
At halftime in Manchester United’s Champions League game Wednesday night against Atalanta, as former stars like Paul Scholes murmured gloomily in the television studios, it was hard not to wonder how that anniversary would be marked.
Liverpool are the visitor and have scored at least three goals in all the away games they have played this season.
Full time against Atalanta, it felt different. A 2-0 deficit was very excitingly transformed into a 3-2 victory for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team. From inept to inspired. From clueless to fearless. The two sides of the modern puzzle that is Manchester United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must fear fit Liverpool will wreak havoc at Old Trafford
Undoubtedly, United will start this game as an underdog. We have not said it many times over the years, regardless of the identity of the opposition.
They are also a lame horse with an incredible kick. In seven home games this season, United have scored 15 goals. “If we don’t think we can defend well at United, then there would be no reason to raise the manager,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said.
“The quality they have offensively is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t think we are likely to score three goals for United, but we never think more about scoring than defending before a game.
‘To get in the game, stay in the game and win the game at United, you have to defend at the highest level.
United have quality in their ranks, but it will depend on beating Liverpool against them.
“It is important to be incredibly brave because every ball you lose against United is a huge red flag. So it is a counterattack that is a red flag for the speed they have.
‘So it is a proper task to play against United. We all know that it is one of the most important games in the world. It will be good.
Klopp’s summary was on the money. His team has been relatively consistent this season. In general, we know what we will get from them.
So it’s United’s form that is the backdrop to the game. Can they survive their first meeting this season with what we could call a really great team? And if they can’t, what hope do they have against Tottenham, City, Chelsea and Arsenal in the coming weeks?
There are huge holes in this United team. In players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes – an injury question for him – they also have important players.
But it is a big request to expect them to hold firm each week. Against Atalanta they succeeded. Last weekend, when United lost 4-2 in Leicester, they didn’t.
One feels that Solskjaer knows all this too, which is why he was probably so deferential when talking about his club’s big rivals.
“Liverpool are one of the teams that we are trying to catch up with,” Solskjaer said. “Although we were ahead of them in the league last season, maybe it was because of their bad luck with injuries.
Jurgen Klopp has kept his Liverpool team constantly producing the products this season
“We know that we still have to improve to reach the level of the last four years. It will take everything to get results against the best teams in the world and in Europe, and Liverpool is one of them.
‘We haven’t won the league in the last eight years. You can understand Manchester City or Liverpool walking on the field and think that quality is enough. We have players who need to keep improving and developing ”.
David Moyes once said something similar about Manchester City when he sat in Solskjaer’s chair. He was never allowed to forget it.
Solskjaer, regarded as fondly as a former United player, has greater leeway, but the suggestion that the start of winter will be a huge period for the Norwegian is hard to refute.
As long as he keeps United in the top four, he will be safe enough in his position. But United are sixth this morning and are very likely to be down in Sunday’s game.
Liverpool is not without its own vulnerabilities. As irresistible as they have been on the ball (Mo Salah has a nine-goal streak in a row), the defensive pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip has not been hermetic.
In their five games against what we could call the best football teams this season (City, Chelsea, Atlético de Madrid, AC Milan and Brentford), Liverpool have conceded 10 goals.
As always before these games, both teams and certainly both sets of fans would score one point.
“With the quality that they have, they can be dangerous,” Klopp said. “United are capable of doing incredible things.” They certainly are. At both ends of the field.