MANCHESTER: Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have breathed a sigh of relief following their chaotic midweek Champions League victory over Atalanta, but his job does not get any easier as they host an in-form Liverpool in the Premier League.
Sunday’s derby is the first of what could be a defining set of fixtures for United and Solskjaer with a resurgent Tottenham Hotspur and champions Manchester City on the horizon.
United have assembled an attack that is the envy of several clubs, but Solskjaer has yet to get the best out of his team who sit sixth – five points behind leaders Chelsea – following humbling defeats by Aston Villa and Leicester City.
The results led pundits to question whether Solskjaer is the right man to craft a United team that gets the best out of its individual talents and plays with a clear philosophy, rather than a disjointed outfit that relies on flashes of individual brilliance to save the day.
Much of the criticism has been directed at United’s forwards, who critics say do not press opponents as much as other top sides and Solskjaer will be able to observe first hand how Jurgen Klopp has set up his team to win the ball back and create chances.
Liverpool, who won 4-2 at Old Trafford in May last season, are the only team to remain unbeaten this campaign and they travel to United in ominous form, having scored at least three goals in each of their last eight away games in all competitions.
Chelsea lead Liverpool by one point and they will be favourites to finish the weekend on top of the standings.
Thomas Tuchel’s side, which has the joint-best defensive record in the top flight, host winless Norwich City, who have scored only twice this season.
Tuchel has injury worries, however, after potentially losing both Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, while Christian Pulisic continues to nurse a foot problem that has sidelined the American for more than a month.
Manchester City visit this season’s surprise package Brighton & Hove Albion in a top-four battle while West Ham United host Spurs, who lost three consecutive London derbies last month but will be relieved to see Harry Kane among the goals again.
Newcastle, also seeking their first win of the season, begin the post-Steve Bruce era with a trip to Crystal Palace, with Graeme Jones serving as interim manager until the club finds a replacement.
Arsenal kick things off on Friday when they host Aston Villa – a team that has won four times at the Emirates, as well as the last three meetings between the two sides without conceding. – Reuters