Liverpool need statement performance at Man Utd to truly signal title-contending return

Sean Walsh
Jurgen Klopp's side could do with a big win at Old Trafford
Jurgen Klopp's side could do with a big win at Old Trafford /

"You can't talk about title contenders now," Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told a press conference ahead of Manchester United's meeting with Liverpool.

Of course that's what he's going to say. He's managing a club who could finish the weekend in tenth place in the Premier League.

Man Utd were the 'winners of the transfer window'. They'd signed two serial winners and one of the best young talents in world football. Liverpool, meanwhile, had supposedly stagnated again.

That seems like a world away now.

The Reds have showed flashes of the brilliance that won them the Champions League and Premier League in back-to-back seasons, and Mohamed Salah looks like the best player in the world.

Yet for the many positives Liverpool have accrued at the start of the 2021/22 season, there's still something that Jurgen Klopp and co will be eager to check off their to-do list when they travel to Old Trafford on Sunday - win a big game with a statement performance.

They've had three chances to register one this season, but had to settle for three 'incomplete's on their report card.

A 1-1 draw at home to ten-man Chelsea was ok, but you'd have backed Liverpool to take all three points. Onlookers came away from their 2-2 draw with Manchester City pretty certain that the reigning champions were still the best team in the league. Tuesday's 3-2 win at Atletico Madrid was described as 'dirty' by Klopp.

There was a sense of inevitability of those 2018/19 and 2019/20 Liverpool sides which has been clouded because of their dismal campaign behind closed doors. But even in those formidable campaigns where every team on these shores and beyond feared the Reds, they were still not able to a) win or b) play well at Old Trafford.

It'd be cliche to say that no team has an excellent record there, but since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, there hasn't been that same fear factor about the place. Well, unless you're Liverpool.

United's fierce Merseyside rivals have won just two Premier League games at Old Trafford since Fergie left, and only once in front of fans. There's evidently a cloud hanging over the Reds every time they make the short journey east.

Liverpool aren't some ordinary up and comers, however. They're a team with plenty of title-winning experience who are coming off the back of a gritty win. It wouldn't be a surprise if they won on Sunday, but the implications of a victory outweigh those expectations.

This will be the first time since the 2018 Champions League final that Salah will be going toe-to-toe with Cristiano Ronaldo, and unless Harry Maguire plans on wrestling the Egyptian by the shoulder to the ground a la Sergio Ramos, this duel should be far more intriguing.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Maguire
United are on a high / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

After their comeback against Atalanta saved them from the brink of disaster, Man Utd and Ronaldo have their fair share of momentum heading into this one, but they're not out of the woods yet and this is the perfect time for Klopp's men to be in search of such a momentous win.

United need a statement performance to squeeze back into the title picture, but one from Liverpool would make them the favourites to wrestle the trophy back from Manchester City.

The article is a part of 90min's Rivals series.