Jurgen Klopp believes Liverpool are at the centre of a circus surrounding this weekend's blockbuster clash with Manchester United and has told his players to ignore the hype.

Liverpool travel to Old Trafford on the back of a 17-game winning run in the Premier League, including eight in a row at the start of the campaign to sit top.

United are 15 points worse off than their bitter rivals in 12th, their poor form seeing the pressure build on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in his first full season in charge.

Given the sides' contrasting fortunes in recent times, certain pundits have claimed this week that no United player would make it into Liverpool's starting line-up, but Klopp has accused the media of setting up his side up to fail.

Asked how he copes with the talk that comes with such a high-profile fixture, Klopp said: "Ignore it! This game is so easy, the game everyone around it plays.

"Sky made a combined line-up and had 11 Liverpool players. That's like a joke, like building a banana skin. The world in the moment is a circus, and we are at the centre - a couple of people want us to win, a couple want us to lose."

He added: "I love [the occasion], but the talk is so loud. It's exciting for the media. All the stats, the things around it ... in the end we have to play football. That's all I am concerned about, this mix between outstanding attitude and really brave football. That's what we have to try.

"But all the things you wrote or said in the last few weeks, they don't have any influence on the game. It just makes them more desperate to change the situation. They will try that, 100 per cent, but we will try to improve our situation. We will see who wants it more."

Sunday's match will be the first time Liverpool have faced United in a Premier League contest while being top of the table since October 1996.

The hosts will be without key man Paul Pogba, while David de Gea and Anthony Martial are doubtful, but Klopp suggested Solskjaer may be playing mind games with his mixed messages over the fitness of the trio.

"Four days ago, I think Ole said 'no chance' for De Gea and Pogba. Today it's a 'maybe', tomorrow it's a '100 per cent', Martial will back, all that stuff," he said at his pre-match news conference.

"That's how all these games are played - I've got no problem with that. But in the end, I'm old enough, we are experienced enough to judge all the things in the right way."

Jurgen Klopp laughed off a question about advice he would have for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, insisting the embattled Manchester United manger does not need any despite their historically bad start to the new campaign.

Klopp's league-leading Liverpool visit Old Trafford on Sunday with United off to their worst ever Premier League start, having taken just nine points from eight games.

United are 15 points behind Liverpool in 12th, with their woeful form leading to great scrutiny on club icon Solskjaer in his first full season in charge.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of this weekend's clash, Klopp was asked by a Norwegian journalist if he had any advice for his counterpart, eliciting a loud laugh from the former Borussia Dortmund boss.

"He doesn't need it. He is in that club altogether now for 10-15 years. He was there as a player, he knows everything there," Klopp said.

"He made his experience as a manager in football. I know people think sometimes that a manager has to manage Real Madrid before you can take over Barcelona. That's not the truth. He knows, it just has to work out.

"That's how it is for all of us. That's why so many managers get the sack, if some people internally lose patience, then we have to go.

"From my point of view, it looks like he's settled there, they all knew it would be a difficult job to do. Nobody loses against you because you are Liverpool or because you are Manchester United, it's about the things you do on the pitch.

"On the other side they are all on their toes, really motivated when you come there and have a big name and that's part of the challenge we all face.

"I don't think you have to worry about Ole, he is in a good position and has the chance to win a game. We want to make sure that will not happen."

Solskjaer's record through 29 Premier League games in charge of United is actually superior to Klopp's was after the same number of matches at the helm at Anfield.

Asked to compare Solskjaer's situation to the one he faced at that point in his Liverpool career, Klopp said: "I have no clue about his situation really, because it's not important what you are writing, it's more important what the board is telling him, Ed Woodward is telling him, what the Glazer family is telling him. I have no clue.

"I want every manager in the world to have as much time as he can get too bring through his ideas but you never can compare situations, our situation when I came in, their situation now.

"Man United is a massive club, it's a massive club and nobody is really ready to wait for success, it was in my case no different.

"If you would have asked after these first 29 games, all the people here in the room, I don't think there was 100 per cent agreement that I'm the perfect manager for Liverpool. If there was any doubt internally that would be bad, as long as it's only externally, that's not a problem really."

Zinedine Zidane insists his meeting with Paul Pogba in Dubai was "pure chance" – but the Real Madrid boss will not disclose what they discussed.

Manchester United star Pogba, who has been in Dubai as part of his recovery from an ankle problem, was photographed meeting Zidane during his trip to the region for the Dubai Artificial Intelligence in Sport (DAIS) Conference and Exhibition.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he had "no problem at all" with one of his most important players being pictured speaking with the head coach of a club who are among the favourites to try to sign him.

Pogba was heavily linked with a move to Madrid in the previous transfer window after indicating he wanted a new challenge and it is likely the France international will be the subject of rumours once more in January.

Zidane is not prepared to look ahead to the next transfer window just yet, but he would not go into detail about his chat with his compatriot.

"It was pure chance," he told a news conference on Friday when asked about the meeting. "He was there and I was doing the talk and, as we know each other, we spoke. But it's personal – I'm not going to tell you what we talked about.

"We've known each other for a long time, we crossed paths, we stopped, and we talked.

"There are a lot of options, for every club [in January]. When we come to this date, the clubs will decide. We're going to play with 11 players tomorrow [Saturday, against Real Mallorca] and there will be players on the bench. We'll find a solution.

"We'll be able to sign players until the end of January, but what matters to me is the game [against Mallorca]. I'm not thinking about reinforcements. That's a long way off."

Zidane's immediate concern is Saturday's trip to Mallorca, which Madrid will make without the injured Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Lucas Vazquez.

Zidane hinted he may choose to call on Federico Valverde in midfield, given his limited options.

"Modric won't be there, Bale won't be there. Kroos won't be with us, either, nor will Lucas...," he said. "We're always playing, travelling and we never stop, so this can happen.

"[Valverde] is very good, like everyone, but we have 25 players and I have to choose the 11 and the 18 for every game. He can play box-to-box and that's important. He has personality, he wants to do well all the time, he's very demanding of himself and that's good for improvement."

Given Karim Benzema's form this season, it looks unlikely striker Luka Jovic will make only a third LaLiga start since his reported €60million transfer from Eintracht Frankfurt.

Zidane, though, insists the 21-year-old will get his chance to impress.

"He's not discouraged. He knows the situation," he added of Jovic, who has played just 218 minutes this season for his club.

"He's a player who just arrived and he's much better, he's speaking Spanish bit by bit, training well and I will be using him. He's not played much so far, but I'll use him."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has never felt the managerial job at Manchester United is too big for him, despite a dreadful start to his first full season in charge.

After replacing Jose Mourinho in December and initially overseeing a significant upturn in fortunes for United, Solskjaer has seen his side struggle mightily through the first eight games of the new league campaign.

United head in to Sunday's clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford 15 points behind the Premier League leaders with just nine to their name.

Twelfth in the table, United have endured their worst start to a Premier League season, increasing the scrutiny on Solskjaer whose only previous managerial experience came with the Red Devils' reserves, Molde and Cardiff City, with whom he suffered relegation from the top flight.

However, speaking at a news conference ahead of this weekend's encounter, Solskjaer said: "No, I've never felt it's too big for me. I'm confident in what we're trying to do and confident in my staff.

"The coaching and what's happening here every single day, I've been so impressed. The improvement is there to see for us. Of course, it's about results – start winning games, start scoring goals, that's the main thing. We need to create more chances.

"At the back, I think we've looked solid, but we haven't been adventurous enough, taking enough risks. If you watch the best teams around, they risk the ball more often than we do, they make runs in behind, and that's part of the process for the boys.

"When they're losing confidence, they maybe want to play it a bit more safe, but it's my duty to say, 'Come on, then – it's not safety that does it here. At this club, you take risks'."

Asked what is different from when he took over in the wake of United's 3-1 loss to Liverpool that ended Mourinho's tenure, Solskjaer replied: "The culture I'm seeing every day, the attitude in training, the desire of the players that are here, they want to give absolutely everything for us.

"At times [last season], I didn't feel they had the robustness, the mentality at times. We've been working really hard on the physical robustness, the conditioning. We've had injuries, but that's maybe part of the process.

"I remember when Jurgen [Klopp] came in [at Liverpool], if we compare, he also seemed to get a few injuries early on because of maybe the work load and intensity he wanted his team to play in… you don't see that any more. He can play with the same 11 every week. We'll get there."

Goalkeeper David de Gea is unlikely to face Liverpool after sustaining a groin injury on international duty for Spain, but Solskjaer provided a positive update on his condition.

"I don't expect him to play but it wasn't as bad as feared," he added. "When I saw the game, I thought, 'That's him out until the next international break', as we've had some long-term muscle injuries, but it's not as bad as first feared.

"Hopefully we'll see on Sunday who's come through the last two sessions. There are players here who have just started training and are on the verge of coming back. I can't really say."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he has no concerns over Paul Pogba's commitment after the Manchester United midfielder was pictured with Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane.

Pogba, who has been in Dubai as part of his recovery from an ankle problem, was photographed meeting Zidane during his trip to the region for the Dubai Artificial Intelligence in Sport (DAIS) Conference and Exhibition.

The picture has further fuelled rumours about Zidane's possible interest in signing the player in January, with Pogba having been unable to secure an exit from Old Trafford in the previous transfer window.

However, United manager Solskjaer has no problem with meeting and has full confidence that Pogba wants to stay at the club.

"I've never heard Paul say he doesn't want to be here," he told a news conference.

"Paul is part of our plan going forward and Paul knows that. I've spoken to Paul many times. He's been playing through pain barriers. He's been criticised right, left and centre, but he came back, [against] Rochdale, Arsenal, he could easily have opted not to play them, but he wanted to play them.

"He wanted to try to get back, it was too painful, so we had that scan and now he's on the way back, he's mending, he's recovering, he's been on a few days off working and there's a picture. That's the way it is with Man United. I don't have any problem with that at all."

Solskjaer, who allowed Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to leave for Inter without replacements being brought in, has previously said he would not keep a player at United against his will while he attempts to create a more desirable mentality within the squad.

United have struggled for goals this season, though, with injuries to Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford further depleting their forward line, and they head into Sunday's match against Liverpool with just two wins and nine goals scored from eight Premier League games.

Solskjaer, though, is not concerned that the short-term drawbacks of his rebuilding work could mean he is not given enough time to reap the possible rewards of his long-term vision.

"The time is always right to make the right decision," he said. "It was the right time to make those decisions and go on with the squad that we have. The injuries didn't help, we're getting players back now and I'm sure between now and Christmas if you see a full-strength squad then we'll get the results.

"The last few weeks have been difficult, they have been, but it's not like two or three weeks will tell me they were the wrong decisions. They were the right decisions. Listen, [for] the culture that we want to build, I had to make those decisions. That's it.

"When you lose the majority of your front creativity that we started with, you're going to struggle to create as many chances as you'd like. The Newcastle [United] game, we had 75 per cent possession but you can't create that opening…

"The pressing up high has been very good, the attitude, desire has been very good, but as you say, not enough chances created, chances haven't been taken. Sometimes that's confidence, that's human nature, you see players missing chances that they normally would not miss. But it's up to us to keep working and get the ball in between the posts. That goal never moves. It's the easiest bit because you know where it is."

Virgil van Dijk insists matches against Manchester United are no longer the most important of Liverpool's season.

The Premier League leaders will be looking to protect and potentially improve their eight-point advantage when they travel to Old Trafford on Sunday.

Eight straight league victories have given Jurgen Klopp's men control of the title race and firm favouritism against a United side languishing in 12th.

Previous meetings between the bitter rivals might have been viewed as season showpieces but, with European champions Liverpool now challenging for trophies on multiple fronts, defender Van Dijk said other occasions deserve greater billing.

"It's massive, but it's more massive for the fans," the Netherlands international told Sky Sports.

"I think all of the Champions League games are as big as this.

"The whole atmosphere and leading to the actual game is bigger than some other games but I don't think it's the biggest of the season.

"The big ones are [in] the Champions League and the ones that are hopefully going to win us the Premier League title."

United are set to be without first-choice goalkeeper David de Gea and star midfielder Paul Pogba through injury, compounding a poor run of form that involved a 1-0 loss to Newcastle United last time out.

"They're not in the best way, they're not fully confident and they're not in the situation they want to be in," Van Dijk said.

"But the good thing about football is you can bounce back in any game. They might think this is the best occasion to bounce back from it, but we know that.

"We want to go out and fight for every metre on the pitch and try to take the three points back to Liverpool."

Injuries also plagued United when the teams drew 0-0 at Old Trafford in February, a result that proved costly for Liverpool as a solitary point ultimately separated them and champions Manchester City.

While shock losses to Norwich City and Wolves have left the holders with plenty of catching up to do, Van Dijk denied the title pressure has now shifted to Anfield.

"I don't think we have anything to lose," he said.

"Man City are the champions, they're defending their title and we want to get it. In my point of view, we just have to go for it."

When Manchester United forked out a reported £80million to sign Harry Maguire, the comparisons to Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk started almost immediately.

Van Dijk has been credited as one of the best signings of Jurgen Klopp's tenure, with the Reds becoming Champions League winners and genuine Premier League title contenders with the towering centre-back at the heart of their defence.

The arrival of Maguire, whose breakout performances for Leicester City in the 2017-18 campaign coincided with Van Dijk's switch to Anfield, was supposed to have a similar effect on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils.

United have struggled badly for form this season, though, and the pressure is on the team and Solskjaer to deliver a performance against the table-topping Reds, who have won eight from eight in the Premier League this term.

Ahead of Sunday's clash at Old Trafford, Omnisport has crunched the Opta numbers behind Van Dijk and Maguire's statistics dating back to the former's move to Liverpool in January 2018.


VIRGIL'S A WINNING MACHINE

Prior to Van Dijk's arrival, pundits and fans alike were calling for Klopp to sign a commanding centre-back. Many baulked at the reported £75m Liverpool paid Southampton for his signature, but that fee looks a snip when you look at the impact Van Dijk's arrival has had. He has played in 60 Premier League games since signing, winning 45 of those and losing just four – giving him an astounding win percentage of 75. In the same time period, Maguire has played fewer matches – 56 – winning 19 and losing 25, with a win percentage of 34.


NONE SHALL PASS!

Earlier in the season, much was made of Van Dijk's astonishing run of Premier League games without being dribbled past. Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe eventually ended a stretch of 50 dating back to March 2018 and incredibly it has happened just three times to Van Dijk since January of the same year. Maguire has been caught on his heels nine times in the same period, but both players are remarkably consistent when it comes to errors leading to goals – each committing just one gaffe that resulted in the ball rattling the back of the net.


CLEAN SHEETS AND A CLEANER DISCLIPINARY RECORD FOR VAN DIJK

One statistic that really does leap out is Van Dijk's exemplary record when it comes to receiving yellow cards. Incredibly for a centre-back, he has been cautioned just twice since January 2018 and is yet to see red in the Premier League for Liverpool. Conversely, Maguire has 10 yellows and one red in the same period. Van Dijk is just shy of clean sheets in half of his games, keeping shut outs in 29 of 60 matches – with Maguire having 13 in 56. Teams Maguire has played in have also conceded double the amount those including Van Dijk have, 76 to 38. At the other end, each player has contributed but Van Dijk also holds the advantage in that regard with five goals and two assists to Maguire's respective three and zero.


HOW'S THIS SEASON SHAPING UP?

As you would expect, Van Dijk's numbers in the early stages of the Premier League campaign are pretty impressive. He has a flawless win percentage through eight games, although he has conceded in six of those. Encouragingly for Maguire and United, while the team are struggling his statistics compare pretty well to Van Dijk's with as many clean sheets and just two more goals conceded. Maguire has also only been dribbled past once compared to Van Dijk's two, while neither player has yet committed an error leading to a goal or even a shot.

The Premier League returns this weekend after the international break, with leaders Liverpool travelling to Manchester United in the pick of the fixtures.

Manchester City trail Liverpool by eight points and cannot afford another setback when they make the trip to Crystal Palace, while Chelsea host Newcastle United and Tottenham take on Watford.

The last of the 10 games takes place in Yorkshire on Monday as Sheffield United welcome third-place Arsenal, who have played more Premier League games at Bramall Lane without victory than they have any other ground in the competition.

Ahead of this weekend's action, test your top-flight knowledge with our Opta-powered big Friday Premier League quiz!

Answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

1. Newcastle United are seeking just a second win in 26 away league meetings with Chelsea when they head to Stamford Bridge. Who was in charge of United when they picked up that previous victory in May 2012?

2. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has failed to find the net in six previous Premier League visits to Selhurst Park. At which other ground has he failed to score at more often?

3. Watford travel to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, meaning their last three meetings with Spurs in all competitions will have taken place in different stadiums. Name the other two...

4. Liverpool have won five previous Premier League away meetings with Manchester United. Can you name the only two sides to have won at Old Trafford more often?

5. Everton will be looking to return winning ways when they host West Ham on Saturday. Which Toffees player has scored (once) or provided an assist (twice) in each of his three Premier League appearances against West Ham?

 

Answers:

1. Alan Pardew
2. Anfield (seven times)
3. Stadium MK (September 2018) and Wembley (January 2019)
4. Chelsea (six) and Manchester City (seven)
5. Gylfi Sigurdsson

Manchester United welcome Liverpool to Old Trafford on Sunday, with the great rivals separated by a mammoth gap after hugely contrasting starts to the season.

Unbeaten Liverpool have pulled away from United in recent times and are 15 points ahead of the Red Devils after the opening eight games.

Back in 2014, Liverpool finished the season with a 20-point advantage over United as they came second behind Manchester City in an engrossing title race.

Liverpool's superiority has been even more keenly felt this year and in the 2018-19 season they ended 31 points clear of United, with their squad set up to contend domestically and in the Champions League in the current campaign.

United, meanwhile, appear desperately short on the quality needed to challenge on any front.

How did the chasm between these two giants of English football become so vast? We look back at the ins and outs over the past five years for an insight into how United and Liverpool ended up so far apart.

2014-15

Manchester United

In: Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Angel Di Maria, Daley Blind, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Radamel Falcao (loan)

Out: Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Shinji Kagawa, Danny Welbeck

Liverpool

In: Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi, Alberto Moreno, Mario Balotelli, Javier Manquillo (loan)

Out: Luis Suarez, Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Suso

League finish: United (4th), Liverpool (6th) - After going agonisingly close to ending a tortuous wait for a first league title since 1990, Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool went backwards after a transfer window filled with missteps. Lallana, Lovren and Origi remain at the club, with the latter scoring in last season's Champions League final win, but their first season saw a Liverpool side shorn of Suarez overtaken by a United team that finished in the top four despite Louis van Gaal failing to get the best out of Di Maria and Falcao.

2015-16

Manchester United

In: Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Sergio Romero, Anthony Martial

Out: Tom Cleverley, Nani, Robin van Persie, Rafael, Angel Di Maria, Jonny Evans, Javier Hernandez

Liverpool

In: Joe Gomez, James Milner, Danny Ings, Roberto Firmino, Nathaniel Clyne, Christian Benteke, Marko Grujic (January)

Out: Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Rickie Lambert, Fabio Borini, Sebastian Coates, Iago Aspas

League finish: United (5th), Liverpool (8th) - Rodgers only lasted until October as Liverpool's new recruits struggled to make an immediate impact, with the void left by Sterling proving telling before Klopp came in to steady the ship. He led Liverpool to the final of the League Cup and the Europa League while Van Gaal finished his tenure with an FA Cup triumph, the only success of a stint in which his style of football was continually maligned despite the arrival of more big names at Old Trafford. The struggles of both clubs were overshadowed by Leicester City's remarkable season that ended with the Foxes winning the league.

2016-17

Manchester United

In: Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba

Out: Victor Valdes, Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay (both January), Bastian Schweinsteiger (March)

Liverpool

In: Joel Matip, Loris Karius, Sadio Mane, Ragnar Klavan, Georginio Wijnaldum

Out: Jose Enrique, Martin Skrtel, Jordon Ibe, Joe Allen, Christian Benteke, Mario Balotelli

League finish: United (6th), Liverpool (4th) - Klopp recently hailed the signing of Matip as one of the best pieces of business Liverpool have done in recent years and, along with Mane at the other end, was instrumental in securing a top-four finish for Klopp's side. The return of Pogba, for whom United paid a then world-record fee of €105million (£89.3m), and the appointment of Jose Mourinho did not inspire the Red Devils in the league but their success in the Europa League made sure of a place in the Champions League.

2017-18

Manchester United

In: Victor Lindelof, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, Alexis Sanchez (January)

Out: Wayne Rooney, Adnan Januzaj, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (January)

Liverpool

In: Mohamed Salah, Dominic Solanke, Andy Robertson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Virgil van Dijk (January)

Out: Lucas Leiva, Mamadou Sakho, Philippe Coutinho (January)

League finish: United (2nd), Liverpool (4th) - Mourinho described his second-placed finish with United's 2017-18 vintage as "one of the best jobs of his career", so low was the Portuguese's opinion of his squad. Given the divergent paths of the two teams since, there appears to be significant credence to his argument. Salah, having failed to make the grade at Chelsea, fired in 44 goals in all competitions for Liverpool, whose astute signings of Robertson and later Van Dijk helped turn their defence into one of the best in Europe. They progressed to the Champions League final despite the loss of Coutinho to Barcelona but were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in a controversial clash defined by goalkeeping errors that forced Liverpool's hand in the subsequent transfer window.

2018-19

Manchester United

In : Diogo Dalot, Fred, Lee Grant

Out : Michael Carrick, Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini (February)

Liverpool

In: Naby Keita, Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri, Alisson

Out: Emre Can, Ragnar Klavan, Dominic Solanke, Lazar Markovic

League finish : United (6th), Liverpool (2nd) - Mourinho continually expressed his discontent at United's business in the window prior to the 2018-19 season, in which he only lasted until December as they endured a dreadful first half of the season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer inspired an upturn in fortunes, but they still finished well adrift of the top two as, five years on from Rodgers' near-miss, City again held off Liverpool. Keita, Fabinho and Shaqiri, who scored twice in the 3-0 win over United that ended Mourinho's tenure, proved superb additions to the midfield, while the signing of Alisson helped Liverpool keep 21 clean sheets in the league as Mane and Salah ran riot at the other end. That they missed out on the title with 97 points will continue to astonish, but they made no mistake in the Champions League final, winning a sixth European crown by defeating Tottenham.

2019-20

Manchester United

In: Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire

Out: Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia, Romelu Lukaku, Matteo Darmian

Liverpool

In: Harvey Elliott, Adrian, Andy Lonergan

Out: Daniel Sturridge, Alberto Moreno, Danny Ings, Simon Mignolet

League position: United (12th), Liverpool (1st) - Liverpool added little to last season's squad but they have picked up where they left off, winning all of their eight league games to take an eight-point lead over City into this weekend's clash. The contrast to United is substantial. Solskjaer's men, despite adding a trio of bright talents, have endured their worst start to a Premier League season, with the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United last time out ratcheting up the scrutiny on the Norwegian.

The transfer window may be shut, but Paul Pogba's future is still making headlines.

Pogba – who is set to miss the Premier League showdown against Liverpool due to injury – reportedly eyed a Manchester United exit and a move to Real Madrid.

A switch to the Santiago Bernabeu could be on the horizon after Pogba was snapped with Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane in the United Arab Emirates.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA MEETS ZIDANE IN DUBAI

Pogba has been linked with a fresh move to Madrid after the United star was pictured with Zidane, reports The Mirror.

Pogba wanted to leave United during the previous window, with LaLiga giants Madrid and former club Juventus the two favourites to sign the Frenchman, but a move did not materialise.

However, Pogba – recovering from a foot injury – was seen with Madrid head coach Zidane during his trip to Dubai, fuelling fresh speculation over his future at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to 90min, United are monitoring Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani. The 32-year-old Uruguay international is out of contract at this season's end and has been linked to Juve, Atletico Madrid and Inter Miami.

- Inter are chasing Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali and Atalanta's Dejan Kulusevski, says Calciomercato. Both players are 19 years of age and attracting interest in Serie A.

- Calciomercato also reports Tottenham are ready to send Christian Eriksen to Juventus in exchange for Adrien Rabiot. Eriksen's contract expires at the end of the season and has been linked to the likes of Madrid and United, while Rabiot only moved to Turin from PSG at the end of 2018-19.

- Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, United, Spurs and Inter have been credited with interest in Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria, according to Bild.

- Manchester City have emerged as favourites to sign Hearts teenager Aaron Hickey, claims the Daily Star.

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward hit back at "insulting" claims that the Red Devils are being run by the wrong people and insisted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the right man to manage the club.

United have made their worst start to a league campaign since 1989-90, recording just two wins from their eight Premier League matches so far to languish in 12th place with nine points.

Going further back, the Red Devils have won six of their last 23 matches in all competitions – including a penalty shoot-out win over Rochdale United in the EFL Cup – and welcome unbeaten league leaders Liverpool to Old Trafford on Sunday.

Ahead of the showdown fixture, Woodward urged supporters to remain patient and get behind manager Solskjaer, who signed a permanent contract in March after impressing during a three-month caretaker spell in charge.

"The middle section of last season, after Ole's arrival, feels most relevant to what we want to achieve and where we want to be," said Woodward at the club's annual all-staff meeting on Thursday. 

"We saw a team playing fast, fluid football, with a clear representation of the style and philosophy the manager wants.

"Ole has also instilled the discipline back into an environment where we may have lacked it in recent years. He is building a squad that respects the club's history, in which players work hard and respect their team-mates. No-one is bigger than the club."

United spent around £140million on Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and club-record signing Harry Maguire after finishing sixth in the Premier League last season.

But the 13-time Premier League champions allowed Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to depart for Inter without bringing in a replacement, leaving Solskjaer light of options in attack.

That has led to further criticism of Woodward's lack of football acumen, with allegations that he is more focused on commercial deals worldwide than making United a title-winning force.

Responding to those claims, Woodward said: "The reality of Manchester United is we are a club in two parts. First of all, we are an incredible 141-year footballing institution with all that history, all that legacy, all that tradition and that tradition of success. 

"That can never, ever change. We need to keep that protected... what's important is the commercial side is never allowed to take priority over the football side.

"Like other football clubs, our commercial business allows us to reinvest in the football side. It's how these two interact with each other at Manchester United that results in us having a competitive advantage in this area.

"There is a myth that we have non-football people making football decisions, and I think it's insulting to the brilliant people who work on the football side in this club.

"Many of the senior staff on the football side of the club have been in their roles for over 10 years. Some of our scouts have worked with us for more than 25 years.

"We've expanded our recruitment department in recent years and we believe this now runs in an efficient and productive way. Player recommendations and decisions are worked on by this department and by the first-team manager and his staff, not by senior management."

Liverpool defender Joel Matip is ready to play a part in Sunday's highly anticipated clash with Manchester United if called upon.

The 28-year-old missed Liverpool's home victories over Salzburg and Leicester City before the international break with a knock sustained at Sheffield United on September 28.

However, Matip returned to training on Tuesday and is now in contention to start this weekend's Premier League showdown with United at Old Trafford.

"I'm back in training and hopefully I will stay fit," he told the club's official website. "I'm back in training and I feel good. Of course, if I'm needed, I will be there.

"Injuries [happen] to a player. Now I'm back. I hope I stay fit and I can focus on the positives."

Goalkeeper Alisson, who has been sidelined with a calf injury he suffered in the 4-1 victory over Norwich City on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, also returned to training this week.

Jurgen Klopp's side sit top of the table with an eight-point lead over nearest rivals Manchester City, while United – who will be without Paul Pogba and have doubts over David de Gea's fitness – are 15 points worse off in 12th.

Manchester United have tied highly rated full-back Brandon Williams to a new deal that will keep him at the club until at least 2022.

United also have the option to extend Williams' stay by a further year.

The 19-year-old has come through the academy system at Old Trafford and impressed as a left-back, earning his first-team debut this season when he appeared as a substitute in the EFL Cup clash with Rochdale last month.

He also started the Europa League trip to AZ earlier this month, while he was an unused sub in the Premier League games against Arsenal and Newcastle United.

Williams has found himself in the first-team picture as a result of Luke Shaw's injury but appears to have a promising future.

He made his England Under-20 debut in a 0-0 draw with Netherlands in September.

Williams' commitment comes at a time when United are struggling, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side 12th in the table heading into Sunday's visit of league leaders Liverpool. 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hinted the club could make a couple of signings in January as they look to recover from a difficult start to the season.

United have endured their worst start to a league campaign for 30 years, winning two of eight games to leave themselves languishing in 12th with nine points.

That means they go into Sunday's Premier League clash with bitter rivals Liverpool 15 points adrift of Jurgen Klopp's pacesetters, suggesting United might even struggle to finish in the top four.

United spent approximately £140million on the pre-season signings of Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James, though many have argued they are still well short of having a squad deep enough to achieve their goals.

Those suggestions have been exacerbated by United's numerous injury problems this term and, although Solskjaer does not regret letting Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez leave, he did confirm the club are looking at potential January reinforcements.

"In one-off games, you think we could've had a number of extra players with experience. Alexis and Rom [Lukaku] are goalscorers and good players but, at the moment, we made those decisions and they were the right decisions," Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

"That's the only way you've got to look at it. All the players here want to give everything for the club and for the shirt – that's a big thing.

"Every day that they come in training, and every day that they put the shirt on, they're going to give everything that they have. So, you can't really say, 'oh I wish I didn't do that'.

"We know we haven't had the results that we wanted, but I wouldn't have kept the players we sold. It was the right decision.

"We're looking at one or two new signings. We're one or two players light, and we've said that, but if the right ones are available in January then we might do something. If not, these players will give everything.

"January is a difficult window, anyway, but if there are players available and at the right price, I'm sure we will spend. There might be some experienced players who can come in and help the younger players – that might be worth the money.

"So, it depends on who is available. I'm not going to go down the route of bringing players in on big contracts and big fees if they're not the right ones for the whole group and for the future.

"The money is there. We've been looking at players and we were close to a couple, but it's not right if you don't get the right players. The money is there to strengthen in January and in the summer [in 2020].

"We're planning and we're looking. We're refining our targets, but just before the summer transfer window ended, the ready-made players weren't there. But the resources are there if the right players are available."

Liverpool could equal an English top-flight record in grand fashion when their title assault takes them to a wounded Manchester United on Sunday.

The Premier League leaders are sure to target three points knowing victory against their bitter rivals would be the perfect way to level Manchester City's benchmark of 18 consecutive wins at this level.

Recent trips to Old Trafford have not been particularly profitable but the Red Devils, beaten 1-0 by Newcastle United last time out, look to be little more than a mid-table outfit at present.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men will not have won a match inside 90 minutes for a month in all competitions by the time the game kicks off, and the expected absence of David de Gea presents a further hurdle.

 

POTENTIAL BREAKTHROUGHS FOR KLOPP AND SALAH

Liverpool have won five Premier League matches at Old Trafford but none under Jurgen Klopp.

The German's three draws and single defeat in four attempts add up to his longest winless streak in away games against a Premier League opponent.

He might never have a better opportunity to halt the trend.

United are lurching from one bitter blow to another and have laboured in home games against Crystal Palace, Astana, Rochdale and Arsenal this season, losing to the Eagles.

Those subpar showings, coupled with Liverpool's own outstanding form, will have Klopp's men supremely confident of delivering victory for their manager.

But with the missed chance of last season's 0-0 draw still fresh in the memory, there will be pressure on the visitors to take the initiative in attack.

Mohamed Salah, who is recovering from an ankle injury, will hope to be fit as he, like Klopp, has something to prove in this fixture.

Though prolific since his arrival on Merseyside, the Egyptian has failed to either score or assist a single goal in each of his four Premier League appearances against United.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: SCOTT MCTOMINAY V FABINHO

Scott McTominay this week shared insights into his warm relationship with Jose Mourinho, and the Scotland international will hope to make his former manager proud in a key battle.

His opposite number, Fabinho, provides just the kind of shield United's defence will need if Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are to be kept quiet.

Liverpool's midfield anchor has won 12 tackles this term, five more than McTominay, at a success rate of 60 per cent.

McTominay's tackle success rate, at 44 per cent, is less impressive and, while the 22-year-old has certainly been one of United's best performers this season, his numbers lag behind Fabinho's in several departments.

The Brazilian has created three more scoring chances in 61 fewer minutes on the pitch and his passing accuracy of 87 per cent is comfortably superior to McTominay's 81 per cent.

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool's long Premier League winning streak dates back to March and includes away wins over Southampton, Burnley, Chelsea and Sheffield United this season.

James Milner's last-gasp penalty kept the run alive in a hard-earned 2-1 triumph over Leicester City at Anfield before the international break.

United, meanwhile, are searching for answers following a string of lacklustre performances since outmuscling Chelsea on the opening weekend.

The four goals scored that day hinted at a bright future but United have failed to net more than once in any of their subsequent 10 matches in all competitions.

HISTORY SAYS…

Victory will not come easily for Liverpool, who have not travelled to Old Trafford while top of the table since October 1996.

On that occasion, a David Beckham goal gave United a 1-0 win.

Results more recently have been similarly close, with four of the past six Premier League meetings ending level.

Liverpool, the heavy favourites, must snap a five-match winless streak in away games against United in order to preserve their perfect start in the league.

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