Manchester United and Liverpool will play their rearranged Premier League fixture at Old Trafford on Thursday night 11 days after the original game was postponed.
The game between these two heavyweights of English football was called off due to protests by Manchester United fans who are unhappy with the club’s current ownership.
Thousands descended upon Old Trafford on that Sunday afternoon to voice their frustrations at the leadership of the Glazer family, with a few hundred United supporters finding a way to break into the stadium and get on the pitch.
Subsequently, the game was postponed on safety grounds, with both sets of players and staff unable to even make it to the ground due to the protests.
As such, Manchester United were left with a significant fixture pile-up which has resulted in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side having to play 3 Premier League games in just 5 days.
The latest of which came on Tuesday evening, where Leicester City were the visitors to Old Trafford looking for a victory which would aid their search for Champions League football next season – something United had already achieved by beating Aston Villa the game before.
Solskjaer knew that losing to Leicester would mean the Premier League trophy would be heading a few miles east to Manchester City, but with the Europa League final coming up and an important game against rivals Liverpool crowbarred into the schedule just 2 days later, changes were inevitable.
However, the sheer number of changes did lead to a few raised eyebrows, with United making 10 alterations for a Premier League game for the first time since 2009.
The only survivor was Mason Greenwood, who scored United’s goal in their eventual 1-2 defeat to the Foxes which saw the title head 5 miles east to the Etihad.
United’s defeat to Leicester makes Champions League qualification that extra bit harder for Liverpool, who visit the home of their bitterest rivals knowing defeat will all but put an end to those lingering top 4 hopes.
To make matters worse, Jurgen Klopp has never won a game at Old Trafford as a manager and the Reds generally have an unfavourable record at the Theatre of Dreams.
The United team selection on Tuesday has led to some complaints from a section of Liverpool supporters, who feel that Solskjaer’s 10 changes were an underhanded ploy to scupper any fading chances of Champions League football next season, considering United had already cemented their place in the top 4.
Conspiracies aside, Liverpool’s task is simple – win at Old Trafford and keep the flickering Champions League flame alive.
Jurgen Klopp will need to pick up the victory without some key performers, which has been the case for the entirety of the Reds’ season.
Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez remain out, as does Joel Matip from a defensive perspective.
Sadio Mane has looked a shadow of his former self this season, with the forward humbly admitting he is having his worst ever season as a professional.
It’s been largely down to Mo Salah to find the breakthrough for an unusually lacklustre Liverpool this season, with the Egyptian scoring his first ever goals at Old Trafford in the 3-2 FA Cup loss to Manchester United earlier on in the campaign.
With Chelsea slipping up against Arsenal on Wednesday and West Ham just a point ahead of Liverpool, the Reds will feel that the door is still ajar for a top 4 finish.
The gap to 4th placed Chelsea is 7 points, with 9 left to play for. It’s not an insurmountable gap but one that will take a significant effort to close.
Thiago Alcantara may feel boosted in confidence after his first Liverpool goal in the 2-0 win over Southampton last time out, but even though there are bragging rights at stake, it feels a far more important game for Liverpool than it does their Mancunian adversaries.
Manchester United v Liverpool is an 20.15 kick off on Thursday 13th May.