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The former Reds star admits that a recent wobble from the defending champions, coupled with a long injury list, is cause for concern at Anfield.
Manchester United may be “vulnerable”, particularly at the rear, but Liverpool are “in a fragile state and not in the best shape” heading into a decisive clash at Anfield, admits Jason McAteer.
The stakes are always high when two old adversaries square off, but the stakes rise ahead of a long-awaited reunion in Merseyside this weekend.
Liverpool are the defending Premier League champion and the favorite of many to defend that crown in 2021.
United, however, have overcome issues of coherence and leadership to reach the top of the table, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team now looking down on the rest of the division.
McAteer isn’t convinced they deserve that position, but the former Liverpool midfielder admits that Jurgen Klopp’s men aren’t in the best of shape either. FreeSuperTips: “Even if Manchester United went to Anfield on Sunday and beat Liverpool, the Premier League title is not won in January so I’m sure there won’t be too much panic in Liverpool.
Liverpool is in a fragile state and not in the best shape. This is due to physical and mental fatigue as the squad is stretched out with so many injuries.
“The only thing that worries me about Manchester United is that even though they don’t have the best team or a great team, defensively they are very vulnerable, they have the worst defensive record of the top 11 teams, conceding 24 goals. They’re getting results similar to Burnley’s win on Tuesday night, which bodes well for them.
Manchester United have not faced any real injury adversity this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjær has always been able to choose from a large group of players and has not lost any of his key men, such as Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Fred.
“At this current moment, Manchester United are doing well. You cannot deny where they currently are and you must give them some credit for currently being on top of the Premier League, which makes this weekend’s match even more exciting.
“Liverpool have the best record at home and so far United haven’t lost away from home, so it could be a classic, which is something we haven’t had in a long time.”
Liverpool will be without a number of key men once again when they face United, and McAteer admitted that premature injuries have become a major concern.
He added: “The fact that Jurgen Klopp has had to keep changing rosters due to all the injuries disrupts the flow of the team. Since Jurgen Klopp came to Liverpool, the team has had 41 or 42 different center-back combinations, which is phenomenal.
“Jordan Henderson recently played center-back alongside Fabinho, the two youngsters (Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams) have been rotated on and off the team, and the pace has been non-existent. When you take Fabinho out of midfield, a big gap forms. Especially when Liverpool play away from home, it attracts the opposition to attack more, making teams less afraid to ask Liverpool questions.
“In Liverpool’s games this season against Everton, Brighton and Fulham, they have lost points when it normally feels like Liverpool would win. However, in this current climate with the way Liverpool play and how they are set up away from home, teams are more confident and not as afraid to attack as before. Liverpool have made mistakes and have been punished for them.
“However, when May rolls around, at the end of the season, Manchester City and Liverpool will fight for the league title and Manchester United will burn as the season unfolds.”