Manchester United and Liverpool – both boosted by all-important recent wins in the Champions League – will now go head to head in a blockbuster clash in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday.
As the Premier League heads into its ninth round of action, there is no doubt that this is the fixture that will draw plenty of attention and reaction.
On Wednesday night, United had to rely on a gutsy fightback – finished off with another goal from superstar Cristiano Ronaldo – to beat Atalanta 3-2 and move to the top of Group F in the Champions League.
“We have a habit of doing this at this club,” manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer commented afterwards. “I thought in the first half we played some good stuff, created chances, we just couldn’t take them. The difference was the quality of finishing was much better in the second half.”
It’s a result, however, that some critics feel has only continued to paper over worrying cracks in the United setup, with many still firmly of the belief that Solskjaer isn’t bringing out the best in a supremely talented squad.
Solskjaer had responded to last Saturday’s 4-2 defeat at Leicester by dropping Jadon Sancho and Paul Pogba, but on Wednesday, it was some awful defending that again left United needing to play catch up.
“We need to defend better, I know that,” said Solskjaer. “It’s perceived we are so inconsistent in general performance when you concede easy goals.
“We conceded another couple of easy goals and we need to eradicate that because we are playing good teams in the next few weeks.”
Nevertheless, the victory was a much-needed result for United after the loss to Leicester, which had been preceded by a draw against Everton and a loss against Aston Villa in the Premier League.
It’s a run of results that has seen United slip down to sixth on the log standings, and they are now four points adrift of second-placed Liverpool, who are still the only unbeaten team in the League.
The Reds also banked a crucial 3-2 win over Atletico Madrid in their Champions League fixture this past week, and after coming away with a clean bill of health, Liverpool will be firm favourites as they travel to Old Trafford.
Going back to last season, Liverpool are now 21 games unbeaten in all competitions, with Egyptian dynamo Mohamed Salah in simply sensational form at the moment.
Liverpool won’t be lacking any motivation as they head into yet another high-profile clash against United, but there is no doubt that the spotlight remains firmly on Solskjaer ahead of Sunday’s encounter, particularly considering matches against Tottenham and Manchester City are also to come before the November international break.