Manchester United vs Liverpool: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can make a positive impact when Manchester United and Liverpool clash at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The FA Cup quarter-finals will conclude on Sunday before heading into the near-fortnight-long international break. The most highly-anticipated game of the weekend comes from Old Trafford, where Manchester United and Liverpool will vie for a place in the semi-finals.

Manchester United have been horrendous for much of the 2023/24 season. The fans would have hoped to see their team challenging on all fronts. But while they are 17 points behind the table-toppers in the Premier League, they crashed out of the UEFA Champions League in the group stage. So, the FA Cup is the only available trophy for Erik ten Hag and his charges.

As for Liverpool, they have already won a trophy this season, beating Chelsea to win the Carabao Cup last month. The Reds are perched atop the Premier League table as they look to lift their 20th league title. Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp’s men are in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League and the FA Cup. So, an unprecedented quadruple might be on the cards for Liverpool.

Form often goes out the window in clashes involving Manchester United and Liverpool. That was also evident in their only meeting this season as the Red Devils held their nerve to hold their rivals to a goalless draw at Anfield. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle lists three players who can swing the tie in their team’s favour this weekend.

Rasmus Hojlund

Recent lists have seen the involvement of defensive-minded players. But that is not the case for our latest offering, with three attackers dominating the feature. The first player is Rasmus Hojlund, whose return boosts Manchester United’s prospects.

The Red Devils have struggled considerably in the final third in his absence, scoring only five goals in the four matches he missed in the last few weeks. Two strikes came from the penalty spot, showcasing Manchester United’s offensive shortcomings in recent outings.

Meanwhile, Hojlund was impeccable before his injury, finding the back of the net eight times in as many games while providing two assists. He also became the youngest player to score in six consecutive Premier League games and will have Jamie Vardy’s record in his sight when he returns to top-flight action later this month.

As for matters on Sunday, Hojlund’s presence in the final third will keep the Liverpool defenders on their toes due to his exceptional hold-up play and ability to run off a defender’s shoulders. He will be eager to continue where he left off when he picked up his muscle injury a few weeks ago.

Mohamed Salah

The second candidate is an obvious pick due to his undeniable quality in the final third and impeccable record against Manchester United. We are talking about Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah.

The Egyptian international has rediscovered his best form this season, often scoring goals for fun. While the Reds have not felt his absence much during his periods of injury-riddled absence, Salah remains a pivotal figure due to his ability to flip a game’s result on his own.

In addition, the veteran attacker’s record against Manchester United borders on ridiculous. Salah was slow off the blocks, finding the back of the net only once in his first six outings against the Red Devils after joining Liverpool. But he has amassed nine goals and four assists in his last six appearances versus Manchester United.

The 31-year-old drew a blank in the only encounter between Manchester United and Liverpool this season and will be itching to make his mark this weekend. And after missing a lot of action in 2024, Salah will want to enter the business end of the 2023/24 campaign at his best.

Marcus Rashford

Our list ends with another attacker. As is the case with most such offerings, we pick two players from the team with lower odds of winning the game. So, a Manchester United forward rounds off the shortlist, with Marcus Rashford our final pick.

The English international has been a shell of the domineering player who took the Premier League by storm last season. Rashford has gone on long periods where he has made no impact whatsoever, while his overall record this term leaves much to be desired.

But his stock remains high, with high-profile clubs like Arsenal and Real Madrid interested in signing him from Manchester United. Meanwhile, the 26-year-old has shown promising signs whenever he has played on the left flank in recent outings.

So, Rasmus Hojlund’s return is a positive net result for Manchester United as Rashford will return to his preferred position. He played on the left flank for much of his outing against Everton last weekend, showing signs of being at his best in some stages. Another such showing will set Manchester United up for a surprise win over Liverpool this weekend.

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