Three reasons why Man United will beat Liverpool to a top-four place
Sam Rogers takes a look at three reasons why Manchester United will pip Liverpool to a top-four finish this season
Man United boast the higher quality in the squad
Neither Liverpool nor Manchester United had a good time of it at the weekend; the Reds were outplayed by a resurgent West Ham side in Saturday’s tea-time kick-off, before newly promoted Leicester fought back from 3-1 down to stun Louis van Gaal’s side and leave their fans fans choking on their Sunday roast. While neither side are especially good at the back, Liverpool have a slender advantage over a United defensive unit lacking experience rather than quality. Where United will thrive though is going forward. They boast a wealth of attacking riches including Premier League-record signing Angel Di Maria and world-class number nine Radamel Falcao. While they weren’t on the right end of the result on Sunday, they did, for an hour, show their attacking brilliance and they will only get better the more they play together. Liverpool have suffered a similar fate to the one Tottenham experienced when they sold their best player Gareth Bale to Real Madrid last year. In getting a reported £75m for Luis Suarez, Liverpool have tried to build a depth in their squad, at the expense of obvious world-class talent. United, on the other hand, have made it clear that they are in the business of building a stellar line-up of top-class players that will gel into an unstoppable force, which is why they have the firepower to push their way back into the top four.
Man United have a less congested fixture list
With no European football in mid-week to worry about and an early exit in the Capital One Cup, United will be able to focus the vast majority of their attentions on the league. Liverpool are coming to terms with their first Champions league campaign for five years and must get back to managing a squad through an extra set of fixtures that they didn’t have to contend with last season. The only downside to the lack of fixtures is some players may not get the game time they feel they deserve and may get frustrated but it allows Van Gaal to keep his preferred starting XI fit and rested. Another advantage United have is their fixtures at key times of the season, including over the Christmas period and the final run-in at the end of the season. The pair meet on 13 December at Old Trafford, with United then having to travel away to Aston Villa before hosting Newcastle on Boxing Day. The festive period is rounded off for Van Gaal and his side two days later away at Tottenham. Liverpool, on the other hand, follow the trip to Manchester by welcoming fellow title rivals Arsenal to Anfield before going to Turf Moor to take on Burnley on Boxing Day and hosting a resurgent Swansea 48 hours later. United then close their season in May with away trips to Crystal Palace and Hull in between home matches against West Bromich Albion and old rivals Arsenal on the penultimate weekend of the season. Liverpool have home matches against QPR and Palace, but face a trip to Stamford Bridge before closing their season away at the Brittania Stadium, taking on Mark Hughes’ obdurate Stoke City side.
History is on their side
While the current crop of United players currently plying their trade at Old Trafford haven’t all enjoyed success together, the culture of winning at the club is still very prominent and the players they have signed are used to being succesful at the previous clubs. They will learn quickly what it means to be a United player and the passion of the fans will propel the side back to the top table of European football, where a club of their stature rightfully belongs. For Liverpool, there can be no taking away from what was a remarkable campaign last season, but for Brendan Rodgers’ men, they are finding out the hard way what is like to be mixing it with the best in Europe again. The last time Liverpool were in the Champion’s league, it was off the back of a brilliant domestic campaign but their league form suffered and they went without top European football for five years. Having already been beaten by title rival Manchester City before disappointing defeats by Aston Villa and West Ham in successive weeks, Liverpool are finding it hard already without their key players. Add to that a less than convincing performance on the return to Europe and Reds fans will be concerned as to when the rot will stop. Meanwhile, United fans will know that despite the occasional result like the surprise defeat to Leicester at the weekend, their side are on the up, and there is a far more positive vibe about the club than there was last season during David Moyes’ turbulent reign.