HAVING Manchester United host Liverpool may not have the consequences for the top of the table it once had. Nevertheless, the meeting of England's two most successful clubs on a 'Super Sunday' still has the potential to have us salivating.
Beyond the history of this old Lancashire derby, both these sides have vyed for top dog status at the pinnacle of the league for the best part of a century now. And doing one over 'that lot' can often fulfil fans' ambitions in an otherwise disappointing season. So a lot remains at stake at an emotional level at the very least.
The oil cash of Chelsea and Manchester City has broken the hegemony of the traditional powerhouses of Liverpool, United, and Arsenal. And now it looks like Newcastle's future bankroll will push them into the mix too. So the presumption that Man United and Liverpool will always be in the business end of things come May is debatable from now on.
For now, we still have Liverpool lying second in the table, between Chelsea and Man City. While United, after a good start, have fumbled of late and slipped to sixth, yet are still only four points behind Liverpool and five behind Chelsea.
United's two defeats and two draws in the league doesn't sound like a big deal, but in Premier League terms, four defeats across an entire season may be enough to scupper your title challenge, so two losses after eight games is a concern. These two defeats have come in their last three games which saw United gain only one point from games against Villa, Everton and Leicester. Added to those woes, United's early exit at home from the League Cup at the hands of West Ham and the mixed form in a relatively easy Champions League group has reawoken whispers of Ole's departure.
Both sides had 3-2 midweek victories in the Champions League but how the results were greeted by the pundits and the fans was a lot different.
Liverpool's 3-2 came away from home in the firepit that is Atlético Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, in full tribal voice under the orchestration of the charismatic and rather unhinged Diego Simeone. Liverpool's win came from an attack-minded assault and reckless defending approach to the game.
United's 3-2 win at home, against a struggling Serie A Atalanta side, came after they allowed the Italians race to a 2-0 first-half lead. Requiring a credible but desperate onslaught in the second half to reel them back in which included the now mandatory Ronaldo rescue goal in the dying minutes.
Both were good results but, despite the defensive flaws, the Liverpool fans will be the more confident going into tomorrow's game.
Solskjær is the third United manager to face Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp since the German took over at Anfield in 2015. And poor results against Klopp and Liverpool have played a significant part in the eventual demise of one if not both of the predecessors. Most notably Jose Mourinho, who two days immediately after an embarrassing 3-1 defeat at the hands of the old foe at Anfield on December 16, 2018, was shown the door. United can put up with a lot, but a meek showing against Liverpool is not one of them.
For either side, the fortunes of their managers are often tied to how they do against the neighbouring city. Solskjær has yet to enjoy a Premier League win against Klopp and a bad result at home will add volume to the voices looking for change.
What stands in Solskjær's favour though, is his stature among the club as a playing legend. Any decision by the board to show him the exit would be greeted with outrage by a significant portion of the Man United fanbase. And after the debacle of United's bid to join the defunct European Superleague, the owners may not be so eager to raise the ire of fans any further.
Both sides would be a shadow of their best without the talismanic influences of their star performers this season.
Will it be the experience of the elder genius in Ronaldo or the fleet-footed fabulousness of Salah that will win the day? We wait, like Ole Gunner Solskjær, in heightened anticipation.