Football

United faces title test at Liverpool

Top clash: Under the cosh some time back, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has affected a positive turn at United and will take on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool with confidence.  

Manchester United’s bid to win the Premier League for the first time in eight years will face a major test when the leader faces champion Liverpool on Sunday.

With points certain to be dropped by one of the title contender at Anfield this weekend, third placed Manchester City can climb back into the race.

Slumping Chelsea has been forced to put its own title ambitions on hold after a woeful run that must be arrested soon to take the pressure off boss Frank Lampard.

Golden opportunity

After unexpectedly gate-crashing the title race with nine wins during an 11-match unbeaten run, Manchester United heads to Anfield knowing it has a golden opportunity to open up a potentially priceless six-point lead over Jurgen Klopp’s men.

For the first time since Alex Ferguson’s title-winning farewell season in 2012-13, United is top of the table at this stage of the campaign.

It holds a three-point cushion over second placed Liverpool after Tuesday’s success at Burnley — a far cry from the 30-point gap the Reds had opened up over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side when they last met in January 2020.

Having made its worst home league start to a season in 48 years, United was in turmoil when it suffered a shock Champions League group stage exit.

Flash in the pan?

But Solskjaer, who appeared in danger of the sack, deserves credit for dragging United back into contention and a first win against Liverpool since 2018 would be the perfect way to show its challenge is more than a flash in the pan.

United has won seven league games on its travels this term, while Liverpool — ravaged by defensive injuries and suddenly short of goals — has gone three league matches without a victory.

Hampered by Sergio Aguero’s prolonged absence with a variety of injuries and forced to deal with a debilitating coronavirus outbreak among his squad, Pep Guardiola has somehow steered Manchester City back into the title race.

Game in hand

City’s 1-0 win against Brighton on Wednesday extended its unbeaten run to 14 games in all competitions and left it just four points behind United with a game in hand.

With City hosting Crystal Palace on Sunday before taking on Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield United and Burnley in its next league games, the time is now for Guardiola’s men to take their move.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 3:56:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/united-faces-title-test-at-liverpool/article33583383.ece

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