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Liverpool need to silence doubters with United win



Ole on the line: Ole Gunnar Solkjaer can put United six points clear on Sunday if they can pull off the unthinable with a win at Anfield

Ole on the line: Ole Gunnar Solkjaer can put United six points clear on Sunday if they can pull off the unthinable with a win at Anfield

Ole on the line: Ole Gunnar Solkjaer can put United six points clear on Sunday if they can pull off the unthinable with a win at Anfield

Manchester United are top of the Premier League table. But they are still not a title-winning team, though.

It's good for the Premier League overall that United are up there and making it into a challenge, the league needs the big clubs making a challenge and if it can be a three-horse race this year it will be more exciting.

But when it comes to a real push, with four or five games to go, I still see it being Liverpool and Manchester City as the two challengers, and that's even if United manage to get a result at Anfield on Sunday.

If you look at the period where Solskjaer has been at United, there is just that history of inconsistency, in what they have done and how they have played.

I can see the progress they have made and they are improving, but they haven't improved that much, between the end of last season and now, to be considered title contenders. Yes, they have had a good run and this will be seen as a good season for them, but they need a few more players to become a proper team.

You can't just wave a magic wand for a team to become Premier League title challengers: United are a good side and they should be able to secure a place in the top four, which would have been the goal at the start of the season, but when it comes down to it, Manchester City and Liverpool are streets ahead of them.

Solskjaer has to be commended for what he has done with United and he has earned the right to go again next season, to give him a summer transfer window to try and get them to the next level, which is winning a title, but I don't see them doing it this year.

They badly need a centre back. Eric Bailly complements Maguire, but his time at United has been blighted by inconsistency and errors, you always fear he'll make a slip so United need a quick, reliable, central defender who can play 38 games a season, is always fit, doesn't make mistakes, if they do that they won't be far off, bar another centre forward, if they have those two added in they have a potentially very strong team but at the minute they don't have that bit of quality they need to push on.

You hope it's an enjoyable game on Sunday. We all saw the last Manchester derby in the league and both teams were so focused on not losing, it was a very boring game.

And with United winning their last game, they don't need to win on Sunday, they have made their statement already by going top of the table, so United will play the way they did against Man City, they'll sit off, try and hit City on the counterattack and be content with a draw. They'll be happy to get a point at Anfield and that poses the question whether Liverpool can break them down.

Liverpool badly need to get that zest back into their play, the intensity they had for so long but have been lacking now for a few weeks. Liverpool will see this as an opportunity to say: we haven't gone away, we're still the best team in the country, and our focus is on retaining the league.

It's as if Liverpool need to make a point as people are starting to doubt them on the back of their results, people are wondering if they're no longer the side they used to be. And it's up to Liverpool to be the side who make an impact in this game. If Liverpool hit form and play the way we know they can, they should deal with United.

But if they are lethargic, slow in their buildup, United are strong enough throughout and have that pace up front to try and hit them on the break, and that's Liverpool's worst nightmare, to drop off the top of the table and then lose to United in the space of a week. That would be a real sign of concern.

United are more consistent now than they had been. That Burnley game in midweek, I'm sure that's a game where United would have slipped up two or three months ago but they got a decent win. The selection Solskjaer had against Burnley was very smart, he picked a tall team to combat what they were up against. United dug in and battled hard, and then got the ball down and played a bit more in the second half, showed their qualities and the Burnley performance was a very mature one from United, a performance that showed a lot of progress from where they had been previously.

The so-called lesser teams, like Burnley, drop off and let them play, and if United can get into a rhythm they are very good. But on Sunday Liverpool will look to press them up high, and United still have mistakes in them, especially at the back.

I don't see United winning the league. Liverpool have been unbelievable for two and a half years, been on top all along, won the league, the Champions League, they were bound to have a dip and this is their dip.

And even with their drop in form and the loss of their key defenders, they're still only three points off. They will come back strong and they will finish ahead of United, but if they do drop off and it's a top two of Man United and Man City, it will be over with two or three games to go.