Despite the relative struggles from these teams in recent years – just an FA Cup between England’s two most successful teams in the past three seasons – Liverpool hosting Manchester United is still one of the first tilts circled on the Premier League calendar.

Given their wealth of top-flight titles, the fact United succeeded 1980s Liverpool as the country’s dominant squad, and the historically underwhelming fortunes of each city’s blue teams, it was the two red outfits either side of a small stretch of the M62 that were left sparring for honours and northwest pride.

The occasion augments a tussle between the towns that’s encompassed everything from canal routes to comparisons between the poetic prowess of The Beatles’ Lennon-McCartney partnership and Morrissey’s ditties for The Smiths, conceived in Mancunian solitude.

The significance of this meeting remains such that if one set of supporters find themselves backing the losing team under Anfield’s Monday night lights, an extended period akin to the latter’s self-confinement will inevitably follow.

Injuries and suspensions

A player who could familiarise himself with the outside world again is Adam Lallana, the in-form attacking midfielder who was forced to spend the international break in the treatment room with a groin issue. Georginio Wijnaldum may also get the nod despite a hip concern sustained on Netherlands duty.

With the exception of Phil Jones, Jose Mourinho can almost boast a clean bill of health thanks to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s and Luke Shaw’s expected returns to matchday consideration.

Projected lineups

Liverpool starting XI: Karius; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner; Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho

Manchester United starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Blind; Herrera, Pogba; Lingard, Mata, Rashford; Ibrahimovic

What to watch

Louis van Gaal’s tenure at United was often mocked thanks to its enduring images of sideways passing, excruciating media addresses, and the underlying smugness of a man who always thought he was right. Against Liverpool, though, he often was.

In the four league meetings he oversaw against the Reds, United was victorious in all of them, and it’s the unattractive route to last season’s triumphs that might give Mourinho food for thought. The ungainly Marouane Fellaini expertly made a nuisance of himself when protecting the backline, which would then unleash an attack at the first opportunity in a bid to avoid Liverpool’s dangerous high pressing.

Ander Herrera’s tirelessness has unshackled Paul Pogba lately, but Jordan Henderson’s polished passing could tempt the Portuguese manager into controversially reintroducing Fellaini’s height and nastiness into the starting XI.

For such a momentous fixture, Jurgen Klopp has to be tempted to recall Lallana and Wijnaldum for involvement from the first whistle. Lallana’s trickery and audacity is now accompanied by an end product, but his ambitious play has necessitated Henderson’s deeper role – in which he’s thrived. Wijnaldum, meanwhile, is steadily improving.

So there must be minimum desire to tweak things in the midfield. Klopp favourite Emre Can is available and would provide greater protection to the back four, but that would break up an engine room of Lallana, Henderson, and Wijnaldum that’s powered four consecutive Premier League wins.

The storyline that wouldn’t relent over the 2018 World Cup qualifiers was Wayne Rooney’s supposedly dwindling powers. Whether you believe it’s simply a brief downturn in form or the genuine decline of a footballer who’s been playing nonstop since he was 16, it’s hard to see him troubling for Juan Mata’s spot anytime soon – even when he’s been such a focal point of the Liverpool-United narrative for over 13 years.

In fact, in addition to the temptation to field Fellaini, the only remaining tweaks for Mourinho to ponder will be in defence, where Daley Blind should retain his spot somewhere in the quartet after being simultaneously composed and uncompromising this season. Shaw is the player to rival his selection.

This clash has the makings of a high-scoring affair, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic ably flanked by pace and trickery and the host’s triumvirate of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Philippe Coutinho striking up a quick and fearsome understanding.

Ignited by a dispute over canals, the Liverpool and Manchester rivalry is now chiefly characterised by bouts between the Reds and Red Devils. For the neutral, let’s hope it has as many unexpected twists and turns as The Beatles’ most psychedelic efforts.

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