Manchester United and Liverpool have both picked up a reasonably creditable seven points from a possible 12 this season – but with neither side really producing the kind of football that would leave the game’s purists needing a cold shower. On Saturday evening another chapter in one of English football’s greatest rivalries will be written, however both sets of fans come into the clash feeling kind of ‘meh’.
From a Liverpool point of view, their most creative player Philippe Coutinho will have to watch from the posh seats in Old Trafford after he got on the wrong side of referee Kevin Friend. Captain Jordan Henderson is struggling for full fitness, £32.5m man Christian Benteke is struggling for form and was criticised in the week for putting in ‘half a performance’ for Belgium, and there are more question marks over Simon Mignolet as a goalkeeper than there are over Boris Johnson as a potential Prime Minister.
The grass is hardly greener across the M6. United captain Wayne Rooney has gone 10 league games without a goal, Louis van Gaal has spent more than £250m on new signings and still isn’t happy with the balance of the midfield, while United’s relationship star keeper David De Gea is potentially destroyed after a botched transfer to Real Madrid.
But the stats say there is hope for the home side on Saturday night. And although the game might not be a classic, it appears that the Red Devils have the advantage after a decade of dominance.
In the last 10 years Liverpool have faced Manchester United 13 times in all competitions at Old Trafford, losing 85 per cent of them. The Reds have just two wins in that time – the memorable 3-0 victory that effectively ended David Moyes’ awful tenure in 2014, and the equally memorable 4-1 win in 2009 when Fernando Torres had Nemanja Vidic on toast and Andrea Dossena scored a lob. Liverpool haven’t drawn at Old Trafford since March 2000, back when All Saints were number one.
But the form guide points to Manchester United and they’re the 19/20 favourites for Saturday’s clash. Their biggest victory in the last decade was the 3-0 success in March this year, while they also picked up a 3-0 win in 2008 courtesy of goals from Wes Brown (!), Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani.
A more likely scoreline would be United to win by one goal however at 5/2. Of the 13 games, United have won eight of them by one goal (62 per cent), which also means that 73 per cent of their wins in the last decade have been by the one goal margin. That might draw your attention to the correct score punt of 2-1 at 15/2, but there’s evidence to suggest the game won’t be that high scoring.
In seven of the 13 games at Old Trafford, one team has failed to score, with Liverpool failing to find the net in three of their last six visits to the Theatre of Dreams. More worryingly, neither side looks overly likely to find the back of the net this season, and have two of the worst conversion rates in the top flight.
United have scored two goals from 49 shots, giving them a conversion rate of 4.1 per cent, while Liverpool have scored two goals from 54 shots giving them a conversion rate of 3.7 per cent. Arsenal (1.2 per cent) are the only Premier League side with a worse conversion rate after four games of the season. And still Arsene Wenger will tell you he doesn’t need a striker…
That’s a key pointer towards backing under 2.5 goals at 4/6, or at least one team not to score at 10/11. With the percentage of United wins by a single goal however, it makes backing the 1-0 correct score at 11/2 even more appealing.
While it may be difficult to see Wayne Rooney breaking his drought against Liverpool – he’s 5/1 to score first if you do – but there is one player who catches the eye. Juan Mata has been in clinical form for Manchester United, scoring 16 league goals from just 74 attempts since arriving at Old Trafford. Those 16 goals include three in the two victories over Liverpool last season and the Spanish midfielder has already opened his account this campaign with a goal away to Swansea at the end of August, and the winner for Spain against Macedonia on Tuesday.
Mata is 7/1 to score first against Liverpool on Saturday and 12/5 to find the onion bag at anytime. More tempting though, considering the rest of the waffle in this article, would be Mata to score the only goal in a 1-0 victory – a punt that is currently 30/1. A cheeky tenner returns £300 and can guarantee a top Saturday night on the tiles, followed almost certainly by a Sunday of regret and leftover kebab.