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MAN UTD FAN VIEW: For the first time in a long time we have hope to get a result at Anfield

Published on: 15 January 2021

Liverpool. Anfield. Two words that Manchester United fans loathe but have also feared in recent seasons as their bitter rivals took an upward trajectory, while they stuttered.

However, going into Sunday's heavyweight encounter it is United ahead of them in the Premier League - sitting one place and three points better off in first.

While we're still not yet at the halfway stage of the season, this game will prove a true test of the Red Devils' title credentials at the home of the champions. Here, Scott Patterson of United fanzine the Republik of Mancunia, outlines why there is optimism that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side can get a result on Merseyside.

The last time Manchester United travelled to Anfield when top of the league was in October 2011. A 1-1 draw followed, with Steven Gerrard putting the home side ahead before Javier Hernandez scored a late equaliser for United.

The three-point lead United currently possess would be cancelled out if Jurgen Klopp's team achieve what is expected of them and claim the win on Sunday but for the first time in a long time there is reason for United to have real hope.

For weeks, social media had been filled with imaginary league tables, showing that United had picked up more points than any other club in 2020, illustrating the incredible impact Bruno Fernandes has made since signing last January. The form table over the past few months showed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team well ahead too. But for the first time since 2013, United are top of the league after New Year and things are starting to click on the pitch.

United endured a difficult start to the season though, just like local rivals Manchester City, after both clubs weren't afforded a pre-season for the first time, with the victories they did pick up often coming in extremely fortuitous circumstances. Away from home, United couldn't stop winning, equalling a 60-year record of 10 consecutive wins scoring at least two goals. But it wasn't plain sailing.

Against Brighton, United went a goal behind, then took the lead, only for the home side to score a 95th-minute equalising penalty. After the final whistle was blown, VAR showed that the last action of the game should have resulted in a United penalty for handball which was awarded and Fernandes duly dispatched to earn his team a win in the 100th minute.

United were drawing 1-1 with Newcastle until the 85th minute when they went on to score another three goals to win 4-1. They went a goal behind to Everton at Goodison Park but came back to win 3-1. With almost 75 minutes played away to Southampton, United were trailing 2-1, but then new signing Edinson Cavani equalised before scoring a 92nd-minute winner. Against West Ham they went a goal behind and then won 3-1. Then the final game of the incredible run saw United concede in the fifth minute before winning 3-2 against Sheffield United.

The confidence built during this time, with the players refusing to lose, has been massive. United remain the only team unbeaten in the league away from home this season, which is a huge boost ahead of this weekend's trip, although it's worth remembering that Liverpool are the only team who've yet to lose at home.

The best team at home against the best away should prove to be an interesting battle.

These games make heroes out of players and, if not for lockdown, Diego Forlan's name would have been sung on the terraces thanks to the two goals he scored at Anfield almost 20 years ago. These games matter to supporters and the contribution of the players is not forgotten.

United fans will be grateful of any player who can make a name for himself on Sunday, with Cavani, having already scored on Merseyside this season, being a good shout to impress. He has played in some huge games in his time and has the confidence of a striker who has been there and done it. He's scored goals against the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona, he's scored goals in World Cups and in finals, so is unlikely to be overawed by the occasion.

Marcus Rashford will unusually be hailed by both sets of supporters, with there being discussion over whether a banner for the United forward will be displayed at the ground. Following his incredible work off the pitch to fight the government over their lack of provision for hungry children, Liverpool fans have been thinking how they can show their appreciation.

At Goodison Park, the electronic scoreboard paid tribute to Rashford thanking him for 'sticking up for our kids' ahead of Everton's game against United. It would be unthinkable that Liverpool supporters could ever champion a United player, a boyhood Mancunian red, but that speaks to the huge impact the young forward has made over the past year during the pandemic.

'What he's done was amazing, outstanding,' Andy Robertson said earlier in the season. 'Once the fans are back in, Marcus Rashford could be the first Man United player to get a standing ovation here. He'd definitely deserve it because thousands of families are getting fed now.'

But for any United player to have the final say in a positive result is a big ask. Liverpool may be a shadow of the team they were, picking up 13 fewer points than at the same stage last season, but they're still clearly a force to be reckoned with.

While the 7-2 battering they suffered at the hands of Aston Villa was certainly an anomaly, they've dropped points against teams you would never have imagined.

Fulham and West Brom are both in the relegation zone but have earned draws against Klopp's men this season, as well as sides like Brighton and Newcastle who aren't far away from the drop zone.

Looking at their performance against teams near the top, they've beaten Leicester and Tottenham, and drawn with City and Everton.

For large periods of the season, Solskjaer has been cruelly (and inaccurately) labelled as merely a 'PE teacher'. After guiding United to the top of the table, a few people have been left with egg on their face, but that doesn't mean there aren't still fair questions being asked of the manager. The squad are happy, they're playing for him, the football has been fantastic at times, but his substitutions are strange at times and on too many occasions they've fallen at the final hurdle in cup competitions when the pressure is on.

United fans won't be going in to this game overly confident and know that big performances will be required from the likes of Fernandes, Rashford, Paul Pogba and Harry Maguire. Having not won at Anfield since 2016, when Wayne Rooney scored a scrappy goal for Louis van Gaal late on, the odds are against them.

But time and again, Solskjaer has turned up with the goods when it was least expected and United supporters will be desperate for some of that same magic on Sunday.


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