EPL

Erik ten Hag believes depleted Manchester United can defy the odds at Liverpool

By Sports Desk December 16, 2023

Erik ten Hag is confident misfiring Manchester United have the quality to win at high-flying rivals Liverpool despite their alarming recent performances and sheer number of absentees.

The Dutchman and his rickety, confidence-sapped team are under the microscope after last weekend’s 3-0 home humbling by Bournemouth was followed by a meek midweek European exit.

United mustered just one shot on target as Tuesday’s key Champions League clash with Bayern Munich ended in a lifeless 1-0 defeat – their 12th loss of a campaign that could reach a new low on Sunday.

Ten Hag’s men are making the short trip to Anfield for the first time since being hammered there 7-0 in March, which came just a week after they won the Carabao Cup at Wembley.

United head to Liverpool in a far worse state this time around, with as many as 11 first-team players absent for a match that their under-fire manager believes his side can defy the odds in.

“They are playing good, no doubt,” Ten Hag said of Liverpool, who began the weekend top of the Premier League – 10 points ahead of their sixth-placed visitors.

“But we have had some tough games in the last period, as Bayern is also a very tough team.

“We have seen that we can go head-to-head with them and that is our challenge for Sunday as well.”

Asked if he is worried about the number of absentees he is dealing with, Ten Hag said: “We will put out a team who can challenge, who is confident to win that game.

“We are preparing the team in the best way we can. We are confident we can put out a team who can win there.”

Skipper Bruno Fernandes is suspended on Sunday and rejuvenated defender Harry Maguire has joined those in United’s packed treatment room having sustained a groin injury on Tuesday.

Ten Hag says Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford have been cleared to feature, but Anthony Martial, Victor Lindelof and Mason Mount look set to miss out once again.

Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia and Amad Diallo are also dealing with injuries, while Jadon Sancho remains banished from the first-team set-up.

It is an eye-watering absentee list that increases the incline on an uphill battle against Liverpool, who have won four of the past five league meetings against United – scoring at least four goals in those wins.

The 7-0 annihilation last time was a record defeat in this fixture but Ten Hag dismissed the suggestion his players may be scared of such a hiding happening again.

“I didn’t see last season that we were scared there,” the under-fire United boss said.

“It was a bad experience. But it is not similar, you start again on null.

“Last season, in the first half, I think we played very decent and we had got hammered just after half-time. Then we collapsed.

“Yes, that can’t happen, but that was last year. It was a different team with different players, for a part at least.

“We will not ignore it but we go there and we will be confident and I know my players will be confident to go there from the start to the end.

“We have to fight there, we have to challenge there and you go there with the idea, so we will prepare them with the idea to win there.”

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