Manchester United can send shockwaves around the Premier League with a victory at Anfield so it is imperative Liverpool show exactly why they are champions, says Jamie Carragher.
A first Anfield victory exactly five years to the day since their last – live on Sky Sports – will see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Premier League leaders open up a six-point gap between themselves and the champions, strengthening belief they can clinch their first league title since 2013.
Sky Sports pundit and former Reds defender Carragher believes Liverpool must prove they are the better team with a performance that puts United back in their place before their title challenge gathers pace.
«I actually think it’s a bigger game for Liverpool,» Carragher said. «The onus is more on them.
«If United got a result there, that’s when the belief would come that they could win the league. I still think people think United may fall away and Liverpool have still got that edge, but if they won at Anfield that would send shockwaves through the Premier League.
«It’s a game where Liverpool need to show they are the champions, they are the better team, get the result and also a performance that puts Manchester United back where they are.»
Ince: United confident of winning at Anfield
Paul Ince, one of only two players to play for both Liverpool and Manchester United in the Premier League era, believes United will travel to Anfield confident of securing a vital three points.
«Both teams will feel this is a game they can win,» Ince told Sky Sports. «Lately, with these big, big games, you see that teams were too scared to lose the game instead of going to win it.
«It will be interesting to see what mentality both teams adopt, but I feel it’s a game Manchester United can win, and that’s something I wouldn’t have said two years ago.
«Liverpool are the champions, there will be that extra added pressure, that expectation. They should go into the game with the confidence of champions, but they are now facing a Manchester United side who are really confident themselves.
«United are not thrashing teams, they were fortunate against Wolves, the Aston Villa game could have gone either way, but they are winning games and will go to Anfield confident of getting the win.»
Carra: Liverpool won’t change approach
Carragher believes Liverpool will approach the game exactly as they would any other game, irrespective of whether their defensive issues could leave them exposed to the threat United pose on the counter.
«I don’t think Manchester United have ever really hurt Liverpool with the counter-attack at Anfield, like they have done against Manchester City in the past,» Carragher said.
«There is no doubting the devastating effect United could have on the counter, especially with Liverpool’s problems at centre-back and questions over whether Joel Matip will be back there.
«But I don’t think Liverpool will change, if you look at their record at home, they have dominated for the last three years.»
Liverpool vs Man Utd: A title race, enhanced
With the exception of the 2008/09 season, Liverpool and Manchester United have not been direct rivals in the title race in the Premier League era.
Carragher believes adding the rivalry and history of English football’s two-biggest clubs to the title race only enhances the sense of drama and anticipation.
«Liverpool and Manchester United are the two most successful sides in English football, I’m sure that won’t change in 20, 30 years’ time,» Carragher said. «They are the two biggest clubs in this country, that will never change, I have no doubt about that.
«The really interesting thing is that when both sides have had their spells of dominance for 15 or so years, the other have not been the ones challenging. In the 70s and 80s, when Liverpool were dominant, it was Nottingham Forest, Everton in the mid-80s, it was George Graham’s Arsenal, and then when Manchester United were dominating it was Blackburn, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, and Chelsea.
«Manchester United and Liverpool never really gone toe-to-toe for the title going back 30, 40 years. If you look at the situation now, Liverpool are champions and have been fighting with Manchester City over the last couple of years. It would be great to see the two biggest clubs really slug it out for titles over the next few years.
«There is a massive rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United, that will always be there, it will never go. At times it’s more than a rivalry, it can get a bit nasty between supporters, but I do believe both football clubs have a huge respect for each other.
«In some ways, we should be proud that two working class cities from the north of the country are seen as two of the biggest clubs in world football. There is that begrudging respect for each other after what both clubs have done for football in this country and Europe.
«There are a lot of similarities between the two clubs, and that has created the rivalry. It’s only good for English football that the two biggest clubs could are competing for the title.»