Liverpool versus Manchester United is one of the fiercest rivalries in the Premier League.
A big derby always gets the fans fired up – but with the influx of overseas talent to the modern game, it’s sometimes said that the players themselves don’t always share the same local pride.
That doesn’t apply to this clash – because neither manager will need to remind anyone that as far as the supporters are concerned, this is a game they must not lose.
Jurgen Klopp will liken the fixture to Bayern versus Dortmund and for Louis Van Gaal it’s the equivalent of Ajax taking on Feyenoord.
Manchester United have been rightly accused of playing boring football this season but on Tuesday night at Newcastle they threw away two points in an enthralling 3-3 draw, during which they led 2-0 and 3-2.
United have an extra day off compared to Liverpool, who faced Arsenal at Anfield on Wednesday.
A draw is the most likely result on Sunday at Anfield but it will be the least backed outcome simply because for football punters it is always a ‘heart v head’ decision when it comes to taking a flutter.
A typical example of this was the recent Manchester United versus Chelsea match which everyone fancied 0-0 – yet very few backed that outcome.
United have scored early goals away at Wolfsburg and Newcastle and not gone on to win – but after the events at St James’ Park I don’t envisage a repeat of that.
Liverpool have major injury problems and a huge fixture pile up – they dare not lose. Like most people, I hope for great entertainment on Sunday with a 3-3 like Tuesday night, but I fear it might be 0-0 or 1-1 in a contest with few chances.
With passions running high, the referee will have a big say and it will be the experienced Mark Clattenburg who officiates. He’s only given one yellow card in each of the last games he’s taken charge of either Liverpool or Manchester United this season (Liverpool in their 0-3 loss at Watford and United in their goalless encounter at home to West Ham).
He gave four yellows in the Manchester Derby (an Old Trafford stalemate) and he has given three red cards in the 25 matches he has overseen this season, with 83 yellows.
The highest number of yellows he has given this season is seven in Bournemouth’s match with Aston Villa on the opening day of the season.
Clattenburg did send off both Tyler Blackett at Leicester and Luke Shaw of Manchester United, both late on in away games for United last season.
He was in charge at Old Trafford in March 2014 when sending off Nemanja Vidic and booking six others during Liverpool’s 0-3 win.
In a fixture like this you need a strong man in charge and few on Merseyside will forget his handling of Liverpool’s 1-2 win at Goodison in October 2007 which saw two Evertonians (Hibbert and Neville see red), but remarkably only 3 yellows.
All that fans want is a fair ref – and in Mark Clattenburg you have one of the best officials to control one of the Premier League’s most feisty encounters.
Meanwhile we’ve had 34 red cards in the Premier League this season after 20 matches, which is similar to last season (where 35 had been shown after 20 matches) but it’s far higher than the 18 showed in a similar period two seasons ago, and the 27 shown during the same period the season before.
Steven Gerrard got sent off in Liverpool’s fixture with United after coming on at half time in the 1-2 defeat at Anfield last March – and Jonjo Shelvey saw red in the 1-2 defeat at Anfield in September 2012.
However, so far this season Liverpool have had just one red (Coutinhio against West Ham, which ironically forced him out of the match at Old Trafford).
United have not had a red card in the Premier league so far this season (and not many goals either). Last season Rooney, Shaw, Blackett, Fellaini and Smalling all saw red.
We’ll all eagerly await to see what happens on Sunday.