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Liverpool can’t afford another Man United collapse – and 22 points shows why

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There is arguably no harder defeat for Liverpool fans to take than one to bitter rivals Manchester United.

And that is particularly true when it comes in the final seconds of extra time in an FA Cup quarter-final the Reds had led with four minutes of the 90 remaining, as was the case on March 17.

Still, once the dust had settled on last month’s disappointing trip to Old Trafford, it was at least quite easy for supporters to see the several mitigating factors involved and find some perspective.

Frankly, it was no surprise that the visitors looked leggy in the latter stages of what was their ninth game in 30 days, especially given United were contesting their sixth.

There is also no doubt that the two clear midweeks Erik Ten Hag’s men had enjoyed in the buildup to the game also played a role in terms of evening things up.

The trophy we all want

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 31, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And though talk of Liverpool’s quadruple dreams being smashed followed, there can’t have been many fans out there who considered that a realistic target.

Meanwhile, the FA Cup clearly ranked as the lowest priority of the three trophies the Reds were competing for at the time.

But while all these factors made it somewhat easier for Liverpool supporters to quickly move on from their team’s last trip to Old Trafford, it might not be so straightforward should there be a similar outcome this week.

There is no question that, above any other trophy, Kopites want to see Klopp end his reign by adding another Premier League title to the Champions Wall.

And, with Manchester City and Arsenal lurking, anything but three points from this weekend’s fixture casts serious doubt on that outcome.

Liverpool in better shape

Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Sheffield United at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Thursday, Apr. 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Fortunately for the Reds, they are heading to Old Trafford in far better shape than they found themselves just three weeks ago.

For starters, both teams have played the same amount of fixtures (two) since the final international break of the season, meaning there should be no clear advantage in terms of legs.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have seen their options boosted by the recent returns from injury of Ryan Gravenberch and Curtis Jones.

And perhaps most crucially, they are no longer in a position where they will need to withdraw either Mohamed Salah or Dominik Szoboszlai early in order to manage their minutes.

With Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota and Alisson still sidelined, Manchester United still won’t be facing the strongest possible version of Liverpool, but it should still be one that is good enough to win.

The 22-point gap

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 17, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister celebrates after scoring the first equalising goal during the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The fact is, 22 points and five places currently separate these two teams in the Premier League, and yet Ten Hag’s men have somehow managed a draw and a victory from their two meetings thus far this season.

If they are to go on and enjoy the dream finish to this season – and indeed Klopp’s reign – then Liverpool must surely put that right on Sunday.

Should they fail to do so, then there will be far fewer excuses for Klopp and his players to cling to this time around.