Andy Schooler believes Manchester United will look to shut up shot when free-scoring Liverpool arrive for Sunday's Premier League showdown.
"Five of United's six matches against the Big Four last season saw under 2.5 goals and that looks a value call here."
Whether you are the sort of optimistic guy Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears to be or a glass-half-empty character, a la Paul Scholes, it's hard to believe that a meeting with Liverpool is what Manchester United need right now.
United's form a concern
A single point won from their last three league games has seen the Red Devils hand their rivals an early advantage in the Premier League title race, while in Europe they've been thoroughly unconvincing - losing to Young Boys, needed a last-minute winner to beat Villarreal and then having to come from 2-0 down to defeat an injury-ravaged Atalanta.
A summer spending splurge has yet to produce the desired results and the concern that Solskjaer isn't tactically adept enough grows larger by the week. And United haven't even faced a genuine title contender yet.
The midweek comeback over Atalanta was only needed because United were easy to cut through in the first half. It won't have surprised that many given Solskjaer again started with a front three of Marcus Rashford, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mason Greenwood with Bruno Fernandes in behind.
His go-to midfield men, holders Scott McTominay and Fred, were left with too much on their plate to keep things together.
As Scholes said: "The first half really worried me. United had two midfielders playing on their own and if they do that against Liverpool they'll be four down by half-time."
Will Solskjaer heed the warning?
He's got a track record of playing defensively against United's 'Big Four' rivals - not a term I like but United, City, Chelsea and Liverpool have been the top four in the last two seasons. It also fits my point I'm about to make.
Last season, four of United's six such matches ended goalless.
Fred and McTominay were often charged with providing an additional defensive barrier, but they do need help, as Wednesday night showed.
Even given the midweek display, you'd expect the Norwegian boss to revert to type, although Fred was labelled an injury doubt at Friday's press conference.
Perhaps that will force Solskjaer to stumble across a system which works better.
They've managed just one clean sheet this season using his tactics thus far, conceding 10 times in eight league games. Now they must face the league's best attack - one which tore into them at Old Trafford last season.
Klopp and co worth backing
Back in May, in a game Liverpool simply had to win as they chased a top-four spot, United were undone by Liverpool's press. Notably, they also struggled on set-plays, an area which has been an Achilles heel again in recent games.
Things look much more rosy for Liverpool who are fresh from a 3-2 win away to Atletico Madrid, not to mention last weekend's 5-0 mauling of Watford.
Interestingly, Jurgen Klopp played the same 10 outfield players in both matches but admitted in midweek that may have been a mistake given his players' efforts during the recent international window.
He'll surely make a change or two here with Fabinho looking likely to be recalled to the starting XI.
The fit-again Curtis Jones will also be considered for a midfield role, especially given his display at Old Trafford last season, while others who could get a game include Joe Gomez at the back and Diogo Jota up front.
Mo Salah seems highly unlikely to make way though.
He's simply flying at the moment, scoring in all but one of his 11 club games this season. The Egyptian has 12 goals in total.
There's been much talk of him being the world's best player right now and what better game in which to show that than this one with multiple Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo in opposition?
With Liverpool also unbeaten against United in the league in the last three seasons - three wins, three draws - the visitors make most appeal in the win market and look worth backing at 2.3211/8.
United are at 3.259/4, with the draw a 3.7511/4 chance.
Safety-first and lack of goals
I do doubt, however, that they will do it in the same style as last season when they were 4-2 winners in this very game.
As touched upon, they had to win that day. That's not essential this time around and I'd expect a more cautious approach from both sides.
After United's midweek display, I simply can't see Solskjaer moving away from his safety-first approach in fixtures such as this.
Five of six matches against the Big Four last season saw under 2.5 goals and that looks a value call here given it's available at 2.6213/8.
- Manchester United 1 0 Crystal Palace
- Manchester United 3 2 Arsenal
- Chelsea 1 1 Manchester United
- Villarreal 0 2 Manchester United
- Watford 4 1 Manchester United
- Manchester United 0 2 Manchester City
- AC Milan 1 2 Liverpool
- Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 1 Liverpool
- Everton 1 4 Liverpool
- Liverpool 4 0 Southampton
- Liverpool 2 0 FC Porto
- Liverpool 4 0 Arsenal
That bet also landed in four of Liverpool's six matches against their Big Four rivals in 2020/21 (and one of two so far this season), while a look at the head-to-head shows it's delivered a profit in 10 of the 14 meetings since Klopp arrived at Anfield in 2015.
Shots plays worth considering
Finally, a couple of potential bets in the shots markets - or to feature in any match Bet Builder.
Diogo Jota having a headed shot on target is a bet which has been worth following this season with the former Wolves man landing this in four of his seven league starts.
He's better with his head than he's given credit for and with the quality of delivery provided by the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, it's not hard to see the Portuguese troubling United's struggling back-line.
4/1 is on offer with the Sportsbook about Jota heading on target again.
Meanwhile, Joel Matip looks capable of taking advantage of United's set-piece woes.
He's had 1+ shot in seven of his 10 games this season and even money about another here looks too big.
Following their 4-2 win at Man Utd in May, Liverpool are looking to secure consecutive league victories at Old Trafford for the first time since January 2002.
Andy Schooler's P/L 2021/22
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