By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Manchester United may not be in the title race but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side could have a big say in who does win the Premier League, starting with Sunday’s clash against Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Manchester City lead the Premier League on goal difference from Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool with both teams on 65 points — 14 ahead of fourth-placed United.
City do not feature in the Premier League this weekend as they face Chelsea in the League Cup final, giving Liverpool an opportunity to return to the top of the table.
United still have to play City again in this campaign, but , perhaps surprisingly to some, their fans would probably prefer them to do more damage to Liverpool’s ambitions.
Liverpool haven’t claimed the league title since 1990 while United have won 13 in that period and their supporters love to remind their bitter north-west rivals of that fact.
Local pride aside, however, this is also a crucial game for Solskjaer as he bids to convince the Old Trafford hierarchy that he is the right man to lead the club on a permanent basis after his interim period runs out at the end of this season.
The Norwegian is already a highly popular figure with United’s fans after leading the team to 11 wins in his first 13 games in charge and if he were to claim the scalp of Klopp’s Liverpool his approval ratings would go through the roof.
It was a defeat by Liverpool which offered Solskjaer his chance when Jose Mourinho was sacked following a limp 3-1 loss at Anfield in December.
United moved into the FA Cup quarter-finals with an impressive 2-0 win at Chelsea on Monday while Liverpool head into this weekend’s game after a 0-0 home draw with Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
“It is a big game against Manchester United, it’s always big against them. It’s a game in hand as well and we look forward to that,” said Liverpool left back Andrew Robertson.
“It’s a huge game and they’re a different team playing some really good football, I think we need to be wary of them but they know what they’re coming up against and they need to be wary of us,” he added.
United are hoping Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard recover from muscle injuries in time to face Liverpool — the pair missed the Chelsea game after picking up the injuries in the Champions League defeat by Paris St Germain last week.
“You look at their teamsheet or squad list and it’s full of stars. They came to the party and they have a fantastic team. They’ve got people back from injury as well which always helps and they’ve got a strong squad as well,” Robertson said.
Tottenham Hotspur will also hope to close the gap on City and their captain Harry Kane could be back in the starting line-up at Burnley on Saturday after a few weeks out with an ankle injury.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)