The Premier League fixtures computer has certainly delivered for the neutrals who want to see the very best teams in the country come head-to-head early into the 2015/2016 season, with Manchester United set to play fierce rivals Liverpool in a game which means much more than three points.
Two of the most successful clubs in English football history have shared a dislike for each other on and off the pitch over the years, with strong tackles and overwhelming passion epitomising the desire from both sides to get one over on their opponents and take away the bragging rights.
Although Louis Van Gaal and Brendan Rodgers will hope that the game is played in the right spirit amidst the undoubted rivalry between the two clubs, the meeting at Old Trafford represents a crucial moment in the season for both managers.
Beating a potential Premier League title rival early doors could not only provide the foundations for success, but also serve a major blow to their rivals who will be left licking their wounds.
Repeating the 3-0 victory at Old Trafford in 2014 would undoubtedly lift the pressure building on Rodgers, with a growing section of fans showing their discontent at the standard of performances so far this season. Liverpool have invested huge amounts of money into improving their squad after a season of disappointment and have, to their credit, brought in top quality players in the form of Nathaniel Clyne, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke.
However, they have yet to really click into gear and produce the standard of performance that fans expect of any team that wear the Liverpool shirt, although their fantastic first-half performance at the Emirates against Arsenal may be an indication of better things to come.
Philippe Coutino’s absence through suspension is a real blow to Liverpool and Rodgers, with the creative Brazilian star now an integral part of their plans going forward and the type of player that has the quality to cause problems against Manchester United.
Liverpool may be boosted, however, by the return of Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana and Joe Allan, although the game comes too soon for Daniel Sturridge who is still recovering from a lengthy injury lay-off. John Flanagan still faces another three months on the sidelines with a serious knee injury, although his place in the team may have been filled by Clyne who has impressed in his first few appearances in Liverpool colours.
Manchester United have made a similar solid yet unspectacular start to the season, with the pressure also on Van Gaal to build on last season’s progress and challenge for the Premier League title. A club of their calibre will simply not settle for another top four finish if they did come close to competing at the summit, and although Manchester United started their campaign with three consecutive clean sheets – a rarity for a side that have conceded poor goals over the last two years – the 2-1 defeat at Swansea was a stark reminder that more improvement is requirement on the pitch.
Like their fierce rivals, Manchester United have also spent a considerable amount of money in the summer transfer window, with Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Memphis Depay already making an impression.
However, it remains to be seen whether the £36 million acquisition of 19-year-old striker Anthony Martial will prove to be a bargain or a massive gamble that backfired; although the young Frenchman, who is likened to Thierry Henry, has the potential to become one of the best forwards in Europe, many feel that he is not yet ready to make the step-up to play for such a prestigious club where he will be instantly under pressure to deliver.
Fans may feel that the breakdown of David De Gea’s move to Real Madrid on deadline day was the best thing to happen to Manchester United this summer, but although the young Spaniard has declared himself ready to face Liverpool, it remains to be seen if his manager feels the same way
Van Gaal also received more good news as his players who have been on international duty for their respective countries have returned relatively unscathed, which could leave Michael Carrick and Phil Jones as Manchester United’s only injury concerns. The former, who many believe that Manchester United sorely miss whenever he is out of action, has failed in his battle to return from a calf injury, while the medical staff will undoubtedly take their time in nursing the latter back into first team action following a blood clot in his leg.