Cast your mind back to May 2, 2010. Exactly 200 Liverpool Premier League games before Jurgen Klopp took charge of the club.

The Reds, led by Rafael Benítez, fell to a 2-0 home defeat against eventual champions Chelsea to leave themselves seventh in the table and confirm that they had failed to earn qualification for the Champions League for the first time since the 2002-03 season, when they finished fifth.

Klopp is now set to lead Liverpool for the 200th time in the Premier League. And it comes against fierce rivals Manchester United on Sunday.

The transformation in the club's fortunes under the German has been dramatic. In their 200 league games before his arrival, a spell that encompassed Benítez’s final two matches in charge as well as the reigns of Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish's second spell and Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool picked up 94 wins, 48 draws and 58 defeats.

By contrast, Klopp has already won 127 of his 199 league matches in charge, drawn 47 and lost just 25. That is 33 more wins and 33 fewer defeats than the 200 games before he joined. And 98 more points earned.

Even before his 200th match, Klopp's 127 wins stack up remarkably well among the most in any manager's first 200 Premier League games.

Only Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho, who took former club Chelsea to the title in both of his first two seasons in charge, won more times in his first 200 Premier League outings (137) than Klopp with Liverpool.

That output is made all the more remarkable given Liverpool's record before Klopp arrived at the club. Just compare it to his rivals in the above table.

Mourinho took over a Chelsea side that had finished the previous season second in the Premier League.

Alex Ferguson was six years into his Manchester United tenure when the Premier League began, while Pep Guardiola took over a Manchester City side that had won two league titles in five seasons prior to this arrival, only finishing below second once in that spell.

Even the Liverpool side that Benitez took charge of had finished in the top four in eight of the previous 10 seasons before the Spaniard's reign.

But when Klopp joined Liverpool, the club could boast just one top four finish in the last six seasons. His starting point with Liverpool was significantly tougher than that of his counterparts with the most wins in their opening 200 Premier League matches.

His impact has been exceptional. He has guided the Reds to Champions League qualification in all four of his full seasons in charge, ultimately securing their first league title in 30 years last season.

Indeed, Klopp's success has been such that in Liverpool's history, a history that boasts 19 First Division/Premier League titles, his win ratio is comfortably the best of any Reds manager in the top-flight.

Over seven per cent above Dalglish, who won three league titles as Liverpool boss, and over seven better than Bob Paisley, who won six in just nine years in charge.

Klopp arrived at Liverpool with a reputation of success against the odds. A promotion to the Bundesliga with Mainz in 2004, two consecutive Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund in 2011 and 2012. The job he did at both clubs stood him in good stead for turning around Liverpool's fortunes.

His progress as a manager is clear. In his first 200 Bundesliga matches (102 of which were with Mainz, 98 with Dortmund), Klopp won 81, drew 57 and lost 62. In his first 200 league games in charge at Dortmund alone, he won 117, drew 48 and lost 35.

Impressive figures, but he has reached new heights with his 127 wins as Liverpool manager in the Premier League – already the most by any Reds boss in the competition since it began in 1992.

But what of his players? Tellingly, three of the five who have made the most Premier League appearances for Liverpool under Klopp were at the club before the German arrived in October 2015.

Klopp's most used Premier League players

Roberto Firmino, a signing made under Rodgers, has been Klopp's go-to man ever since he joined the Reds, featuring in 93 per cent of Liverpool's league matches under the German.

Then there is captain, Jordan Henderson and vice-captain James Milner.

Signed for Liverpool by Dalglish and Rodgers respectively, both players have made more Premier League appearances under Klopp than with any of their previous managers, with Henderson having debuted in the competition with Sunderland in 2008 and Milner with Leeds United in 2002.

How Klopp has brought on and developed the players he inherited in 2015 has been crucial to the success of his Liverpool side. Henderson won the FWA Footballer of the Year award in 2019-20 having captained the club to a first league title in 30 years. Few would have tipped him for such success when he replaced Steven Gerrard as permanent club captain.

But the German's record in the transfer market has also been impeccable. Key signings such as Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have propelled Liverpool's fortunes.

Along with Firmino, they have formed a triumvirate that boast 183 league goals since they first played together in August 2017. In Europe's top five leagues, no other club's top-scoring three players have scored more than Mane, Firmino and Salah have for the Reds since the start of the 2017-18 campaign.

Joint-top with Liverpool's front three for the top-scoring trios since 2017-18 are Barcelona's Lionel Messi (106 goals), Luis Suarez (62) and Philippe Coutinho (15) – also netting 183 goals combined. The latter of which, Coutinho, is the most significant departure for Liverpool under Klopp, leaving for the Spanish giants in 2018.

Still fourth for most Premier League goal involvements by Liverpool players under Klopp, Coutinho's sale paved the way for Klopp to make two hugely influential signings at the other end of the field: centre-back Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

Before Van Dijk's Premier League debut for Liverpool in January 2018, the Reds had shipped 110 goals in 91 league matches with Klopp at the helm, or 1.2 per game. Since his debut, that figure has fallen to 0.8 goals conceded per match (86 in 108 games).

Alisson arrived slightly later, in the summer of 2018. He has conceded an even lower 0.7 goals per Premier League match he has played (57 in 81 appearances). In fact, Alisson's rate of conceding every 127 minutes he plays in the Premier League is the best ratio of any goalkeeper with 5,000 or more minutes to their name in Premier League history.

Then there is Klopp's full-back pairing, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. The former was signed from a relegated Hull City side, while the latter is a product of Liverpool's academy. The duo have reinvented the full-back role.

Robertson has 33 Premier League assists for Liverpool and Alexander-Arnold has 28. Since they first lined up in the same side in September 2017, that ranks both of them in the top four for most Premier League assists, keeping company with Kevin De Bruyne (45) and team-mate Salah (30). Not bad for two defenders.

Put all of this together, and it is clear how Klopp has struck a balance in each area of the field. A fierce front three, leadership in midfield, the creativity of the full-backs and a strong core to piece it all together.

It is fitting that Klopp’s 200th Premier League game comes against United. The only club with more English top-flight crowns than Liverpool. The club Liverpool have lost to more than any other in the Premier League.

Indeed, Klopp's Liverpool side average just 1.22 points per game against their rivals – fewer than they do against any other opponent.

The winner of their meeting at Anfield on Sunday is guaranteed to finish the day top of the table. As if Klopp needed any more motivation for his 200th Premier League game.

Jose Mourinho has suggested he is not responsible for the high number of penalties being awarded to Manchester United.

United forward Marcus Rashford revealed the club's increase in favourable penalty decisions seemed to coincide with advice handed down by Mourinho during his spell as manager at Old Trafford.

Amid the debate over United penalties that was recently reignited by comments from Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, Rashford told the Football Writers' Association: "There's been times when we have not got penalties. 

"I remember when Jose was manager, there were five or six times I can remember where I should've had a penalty.

"Jose ended up saying to me if you're not savvy about the way you do it then you're not going to get it.

"After that we started to get a few – in terms of development, you have to learn it and understand it."

Mourinho was asked about Rashford's comments when he faced the media on Friday ahead of Tottenham's away Premier League game against Sheffield United on Sunday.

The Spurs boss claimed he did not want to make headlines ahead of the huge clash between Liverpool and United on the same day his team are at Bramall Lane.

But he suggested Opta statistics would come out in his favour on the topic.

"Look, first of all, Liverpool versus Manchester United is a big match that doesn't need me to make it bigger, " Mourinho said.

"Or it doesn't need me to do any headlines before such a big match that I know means so much for both clubs and supporters' population, so I'll leave comments for later not for now.

"But if you feel the need to write something about it, do it in a very simple way. 

"Stats, go to Opta, stats, go to my history as a manager in my more or less 10 Premier League seasons. Compare numbers and take your conclusions."

United win more penalties under Solskjaer

Opta statistics show United won seven penalties in all competitions under Mourinho in 2016-17 and six in the following campaign (four and three respectively in the league).

Mourinho's United were then awarded six in 24 games before he was fired in the 2018-19 season, the spot-kick rate rising to nine in 29 when Solskjaer took charge - initially on an interim basis.

United have continued to be awarded more penalties under Solskjaer since he became permanent boss.

They had an astonishing 22 in the 2019-20 season, 14 of which came in the Premier League.

This season, United have already racked up six Premier League spot-kicks in 17 matches and 11 in all competitions.

United lead the league in more ways than one

Since Solskjaer took over from Mourinho, United have won 27 penalties in 76 Premier League games.

That is far and away the most in the league, ahead of Leicester City (20 in 76), Manchester City (18 in 75) and Liverpool (16 in 76).

Chelsea (14), Arsenal (10) and Tottenham (eight) do not fare as well, while Everton have been awarded just five spot-kicks in 76 top-flight matches over the period.

Mourinho was awarded just 26 penalties from 212 Premier League games during his Chelsea tenure.

Jurgen Klopp took a swipe at former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg and promised he has not been playing mind games ahead of Liverpool's clash with Manchester United.

The Liverpool manager said he has "unfortunately not got the skills" for the sort of calculated trickery in which former United boss Alex Ferguson was once such a master.

Klopp observed after Liverpool's 1-0 defeat at Southampton in early January that United had been winning far more penalties than his team.

During Klopp's tenure, Liverpool have been awarded 46 penalties in all competitions, including 30 in the Premier League, whereas United have been given 67 spot-kicks in that time.

In Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure as United boss, the Red Devils have had 42 penalties, compared to just 19 for Liverpool.

Former top-flight whistler Clattenburg said Klopp sounded "like a hypocrite" if he was insinuating United's players were trying to win penalties, saying Liverpool's players were capable of doing just the same. 

Clattenburg told the Daily Mail that Klopp's comments amounted to "mind games – an attempt to influence referee Paul Tierney and get inside his head" before he officiates in Sunday's top-of-the-table clash at Anfield.

Klopp, however, hit back at Clattenburg's claim.

"Am I surprised somebody's talking about what I said after the Southampton game? No," Klopp told a news conference on Friday.

"I'm not ever surprised that Mark Clattenburg spoke about it, no. It's long after his career so it's nice for him that we can talk about him as well.

"I'm not Sir Alex and for different reasons. When people like Mark Clattenburg speak like they speak, it always says much more about them than it could ever say about me.

"So if he would be in my situation he would obviously play mind games. I've unfortunately not got the skills for playing mind games, that's my problem."

Sunday's game will be Klopp's 200th as Liverpool's manager in the Premier League, having joined the club in October 2015.

It promises to be a stiff test for the reigning Premier League champions, who have picked up an average of just 1.22 points per game against United during Klopp's tenure, fewer than against any other opponent.

However, the two wins Liverpool have achieved in their nine Premier League clashes with United under Klopp have come in the last two meetings at Anfield.

"I've never thought about it. It looks like an okay record but who cares about this record if you don't win the next one. That's how I see it," Klopp said.

He has comfortably the best win ratio of any Liverpool manager in the top-flight, picking up 127 wins in his first 199 Premier League games, for a 63.8 per cent strike rate.

Next on the all-time list is Kenny Dalglish, on 57.1 per cent, followed by Bob Paisley and Rafael Benitez.

"I'm not living for a second in the past," Klopp said. "So far, so good. We have to carry on, we have to get better. It feels like I had much more games.

"It's only 200 but it's a good number as well. It's all okay but it's nothing to really think about."

Jose Enrique expects Liverpool great Steven Gerrard to manage the Reds one day but suggests it would be a tough ask to replace Jurgen Klopp.

Gerrard, who played alongside Jose Enrique at Anfield, is making impressive initial strides in his coaching career, leading Rangers to the top of the Scottish Premiership, on course to end Celtic's dominance of the division.

But having won nine trophies with his boyhood club as a player, including the Champions League, a return to Liverpool has long been mooted.

The Reds are reigning Premier League champions under Klopp and in a title race again this year, trailing rivals Manchester United by three points at the summit ahead of the sides' clash on Sunday.

So, while Jose Enrique anticipates Gerrard will take the helm, he sees no swift appointment and predicts succeeding Klopp will be difficult.

"Definitely, he will be [manager]," the former left-back told Stats Perform News. "I believe everyone knows that. I'm not sure when.

"But that's always different; I'm talking to you in an interview, but many Liverpool fans have this question.

"I always say, 'Listen, enjoy Klopp first, because we have so much good with him'. But Steven will become manager.

"I'm not sure, to be honest, if it's the best decision to be after Klopp. I'm not sure about that.

"Because anyone who is after Klopp is going to have the pressure that we saw with United and Sir Alex Ferguson, and Sir Alex Ferguson was for a longer time with more titles. That's true.

"Klopp, we don't know when he's going to retire from Liverpool and hopefully with many more titles, so going after someone like that, even if you're Steven Gerrard, is not easy.

"But it's true he is already doing really well in a big team in Scotland, because Celtic have been the king in Scotland for a really long time, but he's taken over now and is probably going to win the league. In Europe, he's doing well as well.

"So, from what I know – and I don't know him as a manager but as a man – I'm sure the players will be really happy with him and he was a great captain.

"It is a different role, but I'm sure he would have that inside him to be the manager and captain at the same time for the team, and you are seeing that at Rangers.

"He doesn't care, he will put the best to play and he will be the manager in the future."

Jurgen Klopp revealed he had already been wowed by Bruno Fernandes before Manchester United signed the man who has driven them to the top of the Premier League.

The deal to take Fernandes from Sporting CP to Old Trafford last January could eventually go down as one of the best pieces of business by an English club.

His arrival transformed United and sparked a surge into the Champions League places, and this season the playmaker is inspiring a title challenge. Klopp quipped that Fernandes was "unfortunately" proving a shrewd signing.

Since Fernandes' Premier League debut on February 1 last year, United have won more points than any other team in the top flight (68) – Manchester City and Liverpool have earned six fewer.

During that time frame the Portugal international has been involved in a league-high 33 goals (19 scored, 14 assisted) – Harry Kane is second on 29 (18 scored, 11 assisted) – and on Friday was named the competition's Player of the Month for the fourth time.

Klopp has been an admirer of Fernandes since he scored in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool for Sporting in a pre-season friendly at Yankee Stadium in July 2019.

"He's an outstanding player. Before he joined United we played Sporting in the USA on tour," Klopp said.

"In that game already you could see... wow! You could really see he was a difference maker and that's what he shows now.

"He's settled and is a very influential player now for United. He's involved in a lot of things. I know people talk mostly about the goal involvements, which is very important stuff, but he's a link-up in lot of other situations as well.

"I don't know him well enough to really judge but he seems to be a leader as well. So he was a good signing, unfortunately, for United."

United will go six points clear of Liverpool if they win on Merseyside, but Klopp's side have won the past two league clashes between the teams at Anfield and will go top if they triumph. Liverpool last reached three home victories in a row over their great rivals in March 2011.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has yet to beat Liverpool in the Premier League since joining United as manager, drawing twice and losing once. Only two managers in United's history have failed to win any of their first four league clashes with the Reds - John Chapman (1921-26) and Tommy Docherty (1973-76).

Klopp looked to play down the significance of the points perspective in this weekend's battle, saying: "Winning a football game and winning against United is enough itself.

"There's no extra add-on in that game because they're in the situation they are. They deserve the points they have so far and we have ours and the season has still a long way to go.

"We just try to win our games and we need to perform on our highest level because United are good and always were."

Klopp ruled injured midfielder Naby Keita out of the game but said centre-back Joel Matip was "close" to full fitness and suggested he could be involved, depending on how he trains.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists a Manchester United win at Liverpool on Sunday would be a "shock" despite his team going into the match ahead of the Reds at the Premier League summit.

United and Liverpool have not faced each other as the Premier League's top two since April 1997. While Tottenham and Leicester City could potentially move above Jurgen Klopp's men before they clash at Anfield, it still highlights how rare it has been for both clubs to be fighting near the summit at the same time.

Liverpool were the last team to inflict an away defeat on United in the Premier League, as they emerged 2-0 victors in January last year - the Red Devils have since gone 15 unbeaten on the road, drawing just twice.

At that point, Liverpool moved 30 points clear of United in the league, but this time around require a victory to just go level with them.

But for all the positivity and momentum sweeping through United, Solskjaer is remaining reserved and realistic, putting the pressure back on Liverpool as he is adamant an away win would be an upset given the fact the Reds have not lost in their past 67 home league games, a run that stretches back to April 2017.

"The next one is always the biggest, most important," Solskjaer told reporters when asked if this was the biggest game of his managerial career.

"Being of course where we are in the league, that gives us more confidence, it's a sign, indication of where we're at.

"But it's a game versus the champions, they've an amazing record at Anfield, not lost there in the league for many years, so it's a great test for us. Can we go there and cause an upset?"

Solskjaer was pressed on that assertion again soon after, with the Norwegian asked if it could really be considered a shock if a United side top of the league beat Liverpool.

"If you look at the last few seasons, it would be an upset, it would be a shock," he insisted.

"I think our position at the moment is a product of all the hard work we have done in the training ground, what the players are putting down every single day.

"We probably deserve to be where we are at the moment, but I don't think many would have thought of another word [other than upset] for us beating Liverpool at Anfield if you go six weeks back. But we are looking forward to it and hopefully we can cause an upset."

Solskjaer also addressed the gulf in points between the sides after their previous meeting, suggesting it was an unfair reflection of the difference between the two.

However, he believes his side is far better equipped 12 months on.

"Of course, we're a much better side now than a year ago but then we lost that game to a [Virgil] van Dijk header from a corner and counter-attack at the last kick of the game from our corner," he said.

"So, I don't think we were a million miles away from them then either, I think that's a misperception that people said that. We did have some moments in that game ourselves.

"Of course, the league position shows we are competitive, we are up there with six, seven or eight other teams, it's a tighter season this year. The last few years there have been two teams running away with it by the end of October, now at least we are in it, so we're halfway."

John Barnes has cast doubt on whether Manchester United can sustain the form that has taken them to the Premier League summit ahead of Sunday's huge clash with Liverpool.

The Anfield battle between the long-time rivals gives United an opportunity to pull six points clear of Jurgen Klopp's men, which is a scenario few envisaged even a matter of weeks ago.

Nine wins and two draws in 11 games means United have soared from a lowly standing to the top of the table, yet Liverpool legend Barnes believes one setback could trigger a slide.

He compared Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team to Mikel Arteta's inconsistent Arsenal, and expressed confidence it will be Manchester City and Liverpool who finish the season as the top two in England.

"I think it's too early to say for Manchester United," Barnes told Stats Perform News.

"Because of course, remember when Ole first came after 13 games, they felt that everything was okay. Then they went through a period. And of course, they're very similar now, whereby they're being inconsistent, as much as inconsistency can be being top of the league, with going out of the Champions League.

"But I think that they're showing a resilience that even if they don't play well, they can get results, which is the sign of championship contenders.

"But very much like if you look at Arsenal, and winning one or two games and all of a sudden everything's rosy for Mikel Arteta, lose one or two games and everything will be all doom and gloom.

"I think Manchester United are similar. I still see Man City as our biggest challengers for the title, I still think us and Man City will be first and second.

"Man United are in a good moment now. But will that harmony continue, knowing that one or two bad performances or defeats, well then the old questions about Ole again, the old questions about [Paul] Pogba?

"You need to get rid of all of those of uncertainties if you really want to push for the league, but at the moment, they're doing really well."

Barnes added: "We know what we're going to get from Liverpool. But the intangible is we don't know what we're going to get from Man United."

Sunday's game will be Klopp's 200th Premier League match as Liverpool manager, and Barnes says he has "improved them beyond measure", even if the recent dip in form has cast some doubt over their prospects of back-to-back titles.

Two points from a possible nine since Christmas has been a worrying twist in Liverpool's campaign.

Barnes said: "We're going through a phase now but we'll come out of it. We were top of the league until Man United went above us. So if this is what's being called having a blip, whereby we can go back top of the league if we beat Manchester United, long may this continue.

"I think we've just become so spoiled and expecting Liverpool to be scoring every weekend, beating everybody 5-0, that when they don't, everyone sees that as a bit of an issue."

The goals have dried up in the league since a 7-0 drubbing of Crystal Palace on December 19, with the front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino looking to sharpen up their form.

"I have no fears that those three players will start to score goals," Barnes said. "And we'll be where we should be in the coming weeks and months."

Paul Pogba feels the Premier League is clearly the best in the world as he outlined the scale of the challenge facing Manchester United in the title race.

The World Cup winner is relishing United sitting top of the table after 17 games.

Pogba's winner against Burnley on Tuesday put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team top of the standings at this stage of campaign for the first time since Alex Ferguson's last season.

The midfielder explained fighting for the biggest trophies is why he returned to the club from Juventus in 2016.

While his agent Mino Raiola has said Pogba wants to leave United, he believes the division his current club play in is tougher than those he would be in if he joined reported suitors Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Real Madrid.

"That's why I came here," Pogba said to Sky Sports about United's return to the top of the league ahead of Sunday's crucial away game with Liverpool.

"That's why I came back here. It was to go and win.

"Obviously when you come you want to win straight away. But things happen. You try to build, and sometimes things happen you didn't expect, but it's for a good reason. 

"Maybe this year we can win it, who knows? It made us improve, know about ourselves, get more experience, so everything happened for a reason.

"In my head you always want to win the first year, second year, the third year, but it's not as easy as it seems.

"You have teams that have been great as well, our neighbours [Manchester City] have been great.

"Everyone is building teams, buying top players, so obviously this league is the best league in the world, and you know it's not going to be easy."

Pogba form key to United revival

After a difficult start to the season, Pogba's return to form has been important to a United side heavily reliant on the production of Bruno Fernandes.

Pogba previously conceded he was struggling with his recovery from coronavirus and a long-term injury absence in the early stages of the season.

Opta data highlights his level of improvement, which started with the spectacular goal in a comeback win over West Ham on December 5, a performance that came just before Raiola's remarks caused fervent transfer speculation.

From that West Ham game, Pogba has two goals and nine created chances in seven appearances and six starts.

He is averaging 65 passes and 55 completed passes per 90 minutes during that period, second only to Nemanja Matic for United, while his 7.7 recoveries per game ranks fourth among outfield players.

After being in and out the team earlier in the campaign, Pogba has played 576 minutes in the Premier League in that time – behind only captain Harry Maguire (720), Marcus Rashford (646), Fernandes (641) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (630).

Prior to that West Ham game, Pogba started just four times and made seven Premier League appearances.

He did not have a goal or an assist in that period and registered just two key passes. United won three, drew one and lost three of those first seven Premier League outings.

Starting with the West Ham match, the seven Pogba has played have produced five wins, two draws and no defeats.

Marcus Rashford revealed Manchester United's increase in favourable penalty decisions seemed to coincide with advice handed down by Jose Mourinho during his spell as manager.

United have established a remarkable knack of winning spot-kicks over the past couple of years, comfortably earning more than their Premier League counterparts.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the league, United have been awarded 27 in a little over two years, which is already the joint-ninth most ever won by a Premier League manager at one club.

Those 27 have been won in just 76 matches – the other two managers on the same number of spot-kicks won are Roberto Mancini and Mauricio Pochettino, who needed significantly more matches (133 and 202 respectively).

The issue was raised recently by Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, who claimed United had won more in two years than the Reds had in five-and-a-half years with him – while that is not strictly correct, as the German has won 30, Solskjaer's team are clearly being awarded them with much greater frequency.

Klopp's 30 have come in 123 more matches than Solskjaer, who appears well on track to topple the hauls of Alex Ferguson (59 in 810 games) and Arsene Wenger (80 in 828 games).

Many managers, pundits and fans alike have offered suggestions as to why United get so many, with conclusions ranging from accusations of diving to the idea they simply have more committed dribblers than other teams – but Rashford has an alternative assessment.

Speaking to the Football Writers' Association, Rashford said: "It [appealing for penalties] is worse in training than it is in games – we're having arguments in [training] games, shouting at whoever the referee is, so like you can imagine it's a lot worse in training.

"As a forward line we want to go score goals. Whether you're making runs in behind or dribbling, if you can see a challenge coming you don't want to get tackled because you're looking at an opportunity to score, so there's no way you're going to let someone take the ball off you.

"So, it's just a case of us wanting to score goals and teams wanting to defend goals, penalties can happen.

"But there's been times when we've not got penalties. I remember when Jose was manager, there were five or six times I can remember where I should've had a penalty and Jose ended up saying to me if you're not savvy about the way you do it then you're not going to get it.

"After that we started to get a few – in terms of development, you have to learn it and understand it."

Liverpool and Klopp host title rivals United in an eagerly anticipated top-of-the-table clash on Sunday – no doubt the Reds' manager will be keeping a keen eye on any penalty appeals made by the visitors.

Paul Pogba says Manchester United are capable of winning the Premier League but expects a long title race with many teams still in the running.

United travel to Anfield on Sunday to face champions Liverpool.

Victory would move Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side six points clear of Liverpool after an 11-game unbeaten top-flight run, containing nine wins, catapulted them to the top.

The improved form of Pogba has been crucial to that and he is aware Liverpool represent a huge test, but he told his United team-mates anything was possible this season if they remain focused.

"I think we can win it if we keep our focus but there's a lot of teams that can win it - we are not there yet, we are still very far [away]," he said to Sky Sports about the Premier League title race.

"We have improved a lot, we keep improving but we still have a very young team.

"Obviously we cannot say now we are at the same level as [Liverpool] because they won the Premier League and keep winning so the day we win - that is when we say we are at the same level.

"If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. We want to beat the Premier League winners.

"We know how good they have been playing over the last few years - we know their quality and how they play.

"It's always been a tough game. We know how difficult it will be and we just have to focus and try to stay at the top."

While United have impressed in the league, they were beaten by rivals Manchester City in the EFL Cup semi-final last week.

It was the fourth time they have lost in the last four of a competition under Solskjaer.

Asked how United could take the next step, Pogba said: "By always wanting more.

"Always focus on the next game, the most important one. Always the next game, the next game. If you win 3-0, or lose 1-0, it's the next game.

"Keep the focus, keep the mentality, keep strong in the head and keep calm.

"Obviously with confidence that you are going to do it. That's how I see it. You are not a champion until you get the trophy, so you have to keep carrying on."

Over the past couple of seasons, Trent Alexander-Arnold has essentially set the standard for full-backs in the Premier League.

Not only has he been a dependable part of a generally mean defence, but his effectiveness in the final third has helped mark him out from the rest.

A dead-ball specialist, comfortable on the ball and a fine passer, many have even suggested his long-term future could be further up the pitch in midfield – comparisons in this regard with the likes of Philipp Lahm are understandable.

But the adulation has been rather quieter this season. Indeed, he has even been the target of criticism on occasion, which is an awkward position to be in ahead of a huge top-of-the-table clash with bitter rivals and league leaders Manchester United on Sunday.

So, is Alexander-Arnold genuinely having a poor season? Or is he just the victim of his own high standards?

THE KNIVES ARE OUT

With Liverpool not running away with the Premier League title this term, perhaps it was inevitable that certain players were going to start being targeted with harsh words.

The focus on Alexander-Arnold seemingly became most intense after the Reds' 1-0 defeat to Southampton at the start of January.

Many sections of the British media zoned in on the fact Alexander-Arnold lost possession 38 times in the match, more than anyone else, yet virtually all coverage neglected to mention that such statistics are heavily skewed when relating to creative players who are far more likely to lose the ball due to the greater risk involved in their roles.

In isolation, such a statistic proves little. For example, Kevin De Bruyne lost possession 34 times in a game against Watford last season, yet he also had a telling impact with an assist from six chances created. In his entire Premier League career, the Belgian has only ever made more key passes in a single match eight times.

Although focusing on that part of his game may have been unfair, former Liverpool full-back Jose Enrique acknowledged Alexander-Arnold does appear to be a little short of his best, though he is adamant dips in form are normal and could even be explained by fatigue in a packed schedule.

"All of us are humans, you all have up and downs, we don't know what's going on in his life," Jose Enrique told Stats Perform News. "It's probably going amazing for him but at some point, your performance goes up and down. It's very difficult to do what [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo have done [in terms of consistency], it's just them, no one else [can be at such a level for so long].

"At some point in the season, you always underperform. It's normal. At the end [of games] you are more tired, you have many games under your legs. We are talking about international players, players playing at international level as well, Champions League, so it's many games."

STATS SUGGEST A SLUMP

The fact is, Alexander-Arnold has been less effective for Liverpool this season, and the stats back it up.

 

Across all competitions, the England international has four assists in 19 games at a rate of one every 392.8 minutes. Last term, he laid on 15 in 49 games, or one every 266.1 minutes.

In the Premier League, his frequency drops to 609.5 minutes per goal involvement, having been at 186.8 last term. On the opposite side of Liverpool's defence, Andy Robertson is proving a greater threat (one assist or goal every 255 minutes).

If we look a bit deeper, Opta data tells us Alexander-Arnold is playing fewer passes into the box per 90 minutes (12) than last term (14.4), while his open-play crosses are also down to 5.2 each game from 6.7 despite average position maps showing very little change in his role or the areas he operates in this term.

 

But, when considering his attacking output, it is worth noting that seven of his 13 Premier League assists last season came from set-pieces – this could partly explain his shortfall in productivity.

After all, he is taking almost 50 per cent fewer corners per game (down from 4.6 to 2.7) in 2020-21, while his key passes from set-pieces is 0.9 per 90 minutes after being 1.1 in 2019-20.

One might expect this to be a reflection of Liverpool simply having fewer corners, but that isn't the case – in fact, their average of 6.7 per game is identical to last season, he just is not taking them as often.

SUFFERING FROM A LACK OF COMPETITION?

Remember, though, this is comparing Alexander-Arnold to a time when he was in an almost unstoppable side that scored for fun and did not have something of a defensive injury crisis.

If we look at his form in the context of his Premier League contemporaries this term, his critics might be a little surprised.

Indeed, his 25 chances created and 162 passes into the box are second only to Robertson (32 and 169 respectively) among defenders, while Harry Maguire is the sole defensive player with more efforts on goal (21) than Alexander-Arnold (20).

 

It's a similar story with respect to crosses, as his tally of 70 is the fourth highest for a defender. Again, Robertson – who seems to be thriving even more this season – tops the list with 92.

Clearly Alexander-Arnold is still performing at a high standard, though Jose Enrique suggests a lack of competition in the right-back role could be another factor in his slight dip in form.

"I believe he's 22 now, he's won everything he can win as a player but maybe he needs more competition," the Spaniard added. "I believe Neco Williams is a good player, but obviously you can't compare. That's the reality. Neco is still growing, we don't know in the future how he's going to be. That's why he [Jurgen Klopp] puts [James] Milner there sometimes, I believe, to make a point.

"Sometimes it happens as well in players, and he will come back to his best. He's so important for us. Apart from De Bruyne, I don't see any other right foot like his. He puts the ball wherever he wants with his right foot, he's incredible. But like I said, he's a human being and he's not his best right now, but I'm sure against United he will sort out everyone, I'm sure."

There's no time like the present.

Dayot Upamecano is set to leave RB Leipzig – but not just yet – while Eric Garcia is getting closer to joining Barcelona.

Upamecano has been linked with several European giants after impressing for the Bundesliga club.

But the defender looks set to stay at the Red Bull Arena until the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – UPAMECANO SET FOR €42M MOVE

Leipzig are not considering selling Upamecano in January even though he can leave for £37.4million (€42m) at the end of the season, according to The Guardian.

Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea have each been linked with a move for the France international.

Upamecano has made 21 appearances in all competitions for Leipzig this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Garcia is seemingly getting closer to a Barcelona move. Sport reports the Manchester City defender is a step away from joining the Catalan giants on a five-year deal and Barca are hopeful a move can happen in January.

- Coming out of contract at the end of the season, Hakan Calhanoglu's future has been a talking point. Sky Sport reports negotiations are ongoing between Milan and the midfielder, who has been linked to United.

- Mauricio Pochettino seems eager to get Dele Alli to Paris Saint-Germain. The Guardian reports the Tottenham midfielder is PSG's main target this transfer window.

- Arkadiusz Milik is set to leave Napoli. CalcioMercato reports Marseille want the striker and had an offer of €8m rejected.

- With Frank Lampard under pressure, Chelsea were reportedly considering bringing back Avram Grant to support the head coach. However, The Sun reports the Premier League giants are not lining up such a move.

Former Liverpool left-back Jose Enrique is pleased to see Manchester United back as Premier League title contenders – as long as the reigning champions can defend their crown.

The Reds trail United by three points at the top of the table heading into Sunday's crunch clash on Merseyside.

United are winless in four league games against Liverpool, losing on their last two trips to Anfield, but this will be their first meeting with the Old Trafford outfit leading the league since 2013, when Alex Ferguson oversaw their most recent title triumph.

Liverpool have since won the title once and finished as runners-up twice, while United have only once made the top two.

However, ex-defender Jose Enrique, who played for the Reds between 2011 and 2016, believes it is healthy for the rivalry for the teams to be competitive at the summit.

"For me, if I have to be honest with you, I like to see United struggle, obviously, but I also like to see them be there if Liverpool are winning the title," he told Stats Perform News.

"In the end, it's the type of fact that it has always been in the Premier League; they are the two clubs with the most history in the Premier League. It's the reality for titles and everything.

"Obviously, Manchester City go and buy, then Everton now. Yes, okay, it's good and it's amazing, but Manchester United and Liverpool have always been there, so it's nice to see that battle again.

"When Sir Alex Ferguson was there, Liverpool were struggling a bit, so both of them are going through a good moment now, and it's nice to see this type of thing.

"It's true that a derby's a derby. It doesn't matter in which position you are in the table, because every player is looking forward to this, so you will see the performance and the tackles and everything [that] is different to other games.

"But it's nice to see as well that fire. And finally, Liverpool finishing and winning the league, obviously."

Liverpool are winless in three in the league, but Jose Enrique added: "Obviously, Liverpool are struggling a bit with results now but both of them are in the top of the table.

"So, it's better to see a game of that magnitude to play for the top spot in the Premier League."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is aiming to avoid becoming just the third United manager to fail to win any of his first four league games against Liverpool and the rivalry will then be renewed once more in the FA Cup at Old Trafford six days later.

There will be no supporters at either match due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Jose Enrique still ranks this ahead of any other fixture.

"It's the best game to be involved in," he said. "Obviously, it's going to be different because there's no fans.

"But it's still a derby and the players will perform really well; it will be a determined game.

"Personally, when I used to be involved, it was amazing. It was the best game to be involved in.

"When we play at Anfield, this type of game, the atmosphere is completely different. Even the Champions League is special, amazing, but when you play against United, it's something else, a different experience."

Erling Haaland is one of the sought-after players in world football.

The Borussia Dortmund forward can reportedly take his pick from Europe's elite.

But if his agent Mino Raiola has his way, Camp Nou could be Haaland's next destination.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND COULD LEAVE BVB AT SEASON'S END

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could leave the Bundesliga club for Barcelona at the end of the season, according to TV3 program Onze.

Haaland has been linked with the likes of Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus following his exploits for Dortmund.

The Norway international forward reportedly has a €75million (£66.8m) release clause at the end of his second season in Dortmund, though he could depart sooner rather than later.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says United are not working on a deal to sign Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. The Spanish superstar is out of contract at the end of the season, and he has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Juve, City, Chelsea and Liverpool. A move to Liverpool is reportedly not on the horizon due to his role in the injury to Mohamed Salah in the 2018 Champions League final.

City have joined Serie A champions Juve in the race to sign Sassuolo star Manuel Locatelli, reports the Daily Mail.

- According to Sky Sport Italia, Sportitalia and Tuttomercatoweb, Milan are set to meet with free agent Mario Mandzukic over the next 24 hours to discuss a short-term deal. Staying at San Siro and Sky Sport Italia says the Rossoneri are close to signing Torino midfielder Soualiho Meite on loan with the option to buy.

Arsenal are interested in Barca goalkeeper Neto, claims Sky Sports. With backup Runar Alex Runarsson struggling in London, the Gunners are hoping to bring in Neto on loan.

- Marca reports Barca are targeting Valencia star Jose Gaya to bolster their left-back position, while Villarreal's Alfonso Pedraza is another option.

Juventus are set to complete the signing of American defender Bryan Reynolds from MLS club Dallas, says Romano. The 19-year-old will join Benevento until June, before linking up with Juve.

Manchester United are top of the Premier League at this stage of the season for the first time since Alex Ferguson's final year in charge.

Few would have predicted such a turn of events when United fell to a tame 1-0 loss against Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 1.

Since then, though, United have gone on an 11-match unbeaten run in the league that contained nine victories, including the 1-0 away win over Burnley on Tuesday.

As a result, they sit three points clear of Premier League champions Liverpool ahead of their huge trip to Anfield on Sunday.

We have used Opta data to look at who has performed best, both for United and across the league, during this resurgent period for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

IMPRESSIVE ATTACKING STATS

United have conceded a respectable 11 goals in as many matches, but it is their attacking play which is really separating them from the pack.

They have scored 25 goals in those 11 games, five more than anyone else in the league. Liverpool are next with 20, though they have played one game fewer, followed by Leeds United and Leicester City (both 18).

United have racked up 122 attempts at goal, which is second-best in the league – only Leeds (132) rank higher.

And United's efforts have been more accurate, as they have the most shots on target (72), well clear of Leeds and Liverpool (both 56).

BRUNO AND RASHFORD STAND OUT

It will surprise few to learn that Bruno Fernandes has been United's best performer over the past 11 games, just as he has been since his debut a year ago.

He has scored eight goals for United in the 11-match period, with the next best contributors being the impressive Marcus Rashford (five) and new arrival Edinson Cavani (three).

Fernandes also comes out on top for assists with five. Rashford again follows closely with three, which is also the tally registered by Anthony Martial.

Once again Fernandes (27) and Rashford (24) both come out on top when it comes to shots, with Martial also generating a good number of attempts (22).

As you might expect, that trio subsequently fare best when it comes to attempts on target, with Fernandes (18) ahead of Rashford and Martial (both 14).

The Portugal international has 316 successful passes in the opposition half over those 11 games. Rashford (221) is second and a welcome sight for United is Paul Pogba (195) coming next in the list.

A continued renaissance for Pogba, particularly if Solskjaer can get him more involved offensive areas, could provide United with an x-factor in addition to the consistent numbers being produced by Fernandes and Rashford, who asssisted the World Cup winner's goal against Burnley.

A continued renaissance for Pogba, particularly if Solskjaer can get him more involved in offensive areas, could provide United with an x-factor in addition to the consistent numbers being produced by Fernandes and Rashford, who assisted the World Cup winner's goal against Burnley.

Fernandes leads United for chances created over the 11 matches with 34. Improving full-back Luke Shaw is a surprise second with 17, followed by Martial and Rashford (12).

FERNANDES IN ELITE COMPANY

The eight goals scored by Fernandes since November 2 puts him two clear of the next best in the league, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah (six).

Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne (six) just edges him for assists and is the only man with a higher number across all Premier League teams during that span.

When the metrics are adjusted to calculate contributions per 90 minutes spent on the pitch, some other United players come to the fore

Fernandes and Cavani (0.79) fare best for United in a tie for fifth for goals per 90 minutes, with Aston Villa star Anwar El Ghazi, who has been on a hot streak, topping the list on 0.94.

Everton's Lucas Digne is averaging one assist per 90 minutes over the period, though his sample size is a little smaller after missing time for injury.

De Bruyne averages 0.67 assists per 90 minutes, while United's top player in the category is Cavani on 0.53, ahead of Fernandes on a still impressive 0.49.

That suggests Cavani, despite his relatively quiet return from suspension at Turf Moor, could have more to offer than just goals and an aerial threat if deployed regularly as a number nine.

When it comes to shots on target, Martial is in a tie for third in the Premier League with Fernandes (both 1.78 per 90).

The rampant El Ghazi (2.99) and resurgent Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette (2.04) top the charts during the timeframe.

Perhaps surprisingly it is Nemanja Matic who averages the most completed passes in the opposition half per game among United players (34.11).

Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones are ranking as the league's best in that category since November 2 at 52.86 and 48.28 respectively.

With chances created, Fernandes (fourth, 3.36 per 90 minutes) and Shaw (eighth, 2.88) both come out well.

But it is reported United target Jack Grealish (4.22) who has been far and away the most creative player in the top flight over the period.

It is clear the form and fitness of Fernandes will continue to be imperative to United's hopes of sustaining a serious title challenge.

But if Rashford, Martial, Cavani, Pogba and Shaw can build on their positive contributions during their surge to the top in support of Fernandes, the goals should be able to keep flowing.

If they do and a positive result at Anfield leads to a six-point advantage, perhaps fans can dare to dream.

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