Manchester United and Liverpool haven’t factored into the same Premier League title race since 2009 when they finished one-two with Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafa Benitez in the dugout, meaning Sunday’s highly anticipated showdown at Anfield (Watch live, 11:30 am ET, on Peacock Premium) is arguably the biggest clash of the northwestern giants in a dozen years.
While Liverpool entered the season widely regarded as favorites to retain — if not closely contest — the Premier League title, Manchester United were something of an afterthought for the title race. Top-four, maybe even third a fair distance off Liverpool and Manchester City’s pace? Sure, but title contenders in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s second full season in charge? Well, that’s a surprise to almost everyone.
Speaking of Man United’s title chances, Paul Pogba has been talking to our partners at Sky Sports and he was, of course, asked about the title implications of Sunday’s clash. Put to Pogba, the simplest question — “Can you win it?” — begets the most complicated of answers, with the French superstar seemingly uncertain how to best handle the topic.
“Yes, I think we can win it, like I said, if we keep the focus.
“There’s a lot of teams that can win it, too, so we’re not there yet. We’re still very far — that’s what we have to put in our heads.”
“I really can’t say (it’s the best Manchester United team I’ve been a part of). I can say we’re in first place for the first time since … Ferguson time (2013). So, we can tell there’s been an improvement — that’s what I can say.”
“(The Manchester United team of 2013) had a team that had been playing together for along time — experienced, young players, youth players that were coming, a lot of superstars, legends that had been there from the academy.
“When you play together for a long time, you have a manager that’s been there for a long time — I think that makes a difference. I think [Ferguson’s time], he’d been there for many years, knew the club, knew everything. When you have a person like that leave, obviously it’s going to be a big impact.
“And it kind of [was], but we’re re-building and we want to go back to that era.”
Title talk is all hypotheticals at this point of the season, with 21 games still to be played. So, where are Manchester United in relation to Liverpool right now, according to Pogba, and how far off the Reds’ pace are they?
“We all know the neighbors — Liverpool — we all know it’s always been a tough game. Obviously they won the last Premier League (title), so if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. That’s what we want.”
“We improved a lot. We’re improving. We keep improving. We still have a very young team.
“We can’t say we’re at the same level (as Liverpool and Manchester City), because they won the Premier League — they’ve been winning. The day we win (the Premier League), I will say, ‘Yes, we’re on the same level,’ but now we’re still far away, we still have to work and carry on. We know how difficult it will be.”
A win on Sunday would put Manchester United six points clear of Liverpool in the title race and could see the Reds fall as far as fifth in the Premier League table pending results elsewhere. Manchester City, who currently sit third and have a game in hand, are four points back of the Red Devils with the second and final Manchester derby of the season currently scheduled for March 21 at the Etihad Stadium.