Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left Bruno Fernandes out of his starting line-up for Sunday's FA Cup clash with Liverpool.

Fernandes, who has been United's shining light since arriving from Sporting CP almost 12 months ago, was only a substitute for the fourth-round game.

This season he has scored 15 goals and supplied nine assists in 28 games across all competitions from his advanced midfield role, but there have been questions asked about his form in recent weeks.

He has just one goal and no assists in four Premier League appearances since the turn of the year.

Into the United team went former Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek as Solskjaer decided the game presented a chance to rotate his squad, making five changes to the side that won 2-1 at Fulham on Wednesday.

Solskjaer explained why Fernandes did not start, saying on BBC One: "It's rotation in the squad.

"Donny needs to be playing games as well and it's a big game for Donny to come into.

"He's done nothing wrong when he's been around the club so I'm looking forward to seeing him in there."

Premier League leaders United also brought in goalkeeper Dean Henderson, centre-back Victor Lindelof, midfielder Scott McTominay and forward Marcus Rashford, as David De Gea, Eric Bailly, Fred and Anthony Martial dropped out.

Liverpool also showed five changes as Jurgen Klopp looked for a response to Thursday's shock 1-0 home defeat to Burnley, which ended a 68-game unbeaten run at Anfield in the Premier League.

Teenage centre-back Rhys Williams came in for the absent Joel Matip, while James Milner and Curtis Jones were selected as Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dropped to the bench.

Sadio Mane and Divock Origi were also substitutes as Klopp gave starts to Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, with the Old Trafford clash coming a week on from these two sides battling out a dreary goalless draw at Anfield in the league.

After thrashing Crystal Palace 7-0 on December 19, Liverpool were six points clear at the Premier League summit. 

Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were all on target in the clinical rout at Selhurst Park, after which Jurgen Klopp said: "It was really difficult to play against us."

The reigning champions had seemingly found top gear again. 

Fast forward to January 21 and, following a stunning 1-0 loss to Burnley at Anfield, Liverpool were left to wonder just where it had all gone so badly wrong.  

For a fourth successive outing in the league they had failed to score, while the shock result sees them stuck in fourth position in the table, six points behind leaders Manchester United. 

Never mind moving through the gears: the wheels have well and truly come off. 

BARNES HARMS AILING CHAMPIONS

Ashley Barnes' penalty condemned the Reds to a first home defeat in the league since April 23, 2017. It had been three years and 273 days since former Liverpool player Christian Benteke struck twice for Palace in a 2-1 triumph. 

The run of 68 games unbeaten was the second longest in English top-flight history. During the streak, there were 55 wins, 176 goals scored and 36 clean sheets. A total of 43 players were used, too.

Joel Matip, Georginio Wijnaldum, Firmino and Divock Origi were also in the starting XI that were beaten by Palace, managed by Sam Allardyce, nearly four years ago, while Trent Alexander-Arnold came on as a late substitute.


GOAL-SHY LIVERPOOL MISS CAPTAIN

Since Mane's early strike in the 1-1 draw against West Brom on December 27, Liverpool have registered 87 shots in the Premier League without managing to find the net. Eighty. Seven. Shots.

It was not for a lack of trying against Burnley, admittedly. They had 27 total attempts, their most in a single league match without scoring since April 2013 versus Reading (28).  

The absence of Jordan Henderson did not help. Even prior to kick-off, Liverpool had lost more of their 11 Premier League games without their captain (3) than they had in 45 games with him (2) since the start of last season.

KLOPP STREAK CAUSES CONCERN

This is not yet uncharted territory for Klopp at Liverpool; he previously went five league games without a win between January and February in 2017. 

That barren run four years ago included fixtures against Sunderland and Hull City – clubs now in the third tier of English football – and a home defeat to current Championship side Swansea City, who were celebrating at Anfield thanks to goals from Fernando Llorente (two) and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

However, Klopp has never previously gone four without a goal during his Reds tenure. The previous time that happened in his coaching career was while in charge of Mainz, who suffered a drought in the Bundesliga late in 2006.


POPE SAVES ALL AS REDS PAY THE PENALTY

Nick Pope excelled when Burnley ended Liverpool's 100 per cent home record in their title-winning campaign – and the goalkeeper was once again in outstanding form on Merseyside.

The England international made six saves to keep a clean sheet, having produced eight in his side's 1-1 draw in July at the same ground. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, no keeper has made more saves against a single opponent in the Premier League than Pope against Liverpool (19).

Barnes' penalty was the second spot-kick Liverpool have conceded at home this season too – they had only given up two penalty goals at Anfield under Klopp before 2020-21.

There is plenty for the German to ponder, then. While retaining the trophy is far from out of reach, what appeared to be a temporary blip is in danger of turning into a full-blown crisis.

Liverpool have been handed a boost by the return of Joel Matip for their meeting with Burnley, but Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino must settle for a place on the bench.

A run of four Premier League games without a win has seen the Reds drop down to fourth, six points behind leaders Manchester United, ahead of Thursday's clash at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp's side have scored just once in that run and have not managed a goal in any of their last three outings.

Their talisman Salah has summed up their struggles, with the Egypt star having failed to score in any of his last four league appearances – his current drought lasting 365 minutes.

Only once has Salah gone longer without a goal for Liverpool and the 28-year-old has been rotated out by Klopp, alongside fellow forward Firmino.

Since Salah joined Liverpool in 2017, they have won four of their five Premier League games when both he and Firmino have been absent from the starting XI, including two wins over Burnley.

Sadio Mane is the only member of Liverpool's first-choice front three to start, with Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri named alongside the Senegal forward.

Along with Firmino, Mane has netted four times in his last four league appearances against Burnley.

Further back, Jordan Henderson misses out through what Liverpool described as a "minor fitness issue", with Georginio Wijnaldum named as captain.

Under Klopp, Liverpool's league win rate without Henderson featuring is 56 per cent, down from 66 when the England international plays.

The main positive for the Reds comes at the back, with Matip – who went off injured in a 1-1 draw with West Brom on December 27 – joining Fabinho in the centre of defence.

Matip and Fabinho will be up against Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood, who has only played more games (seven) and minutes (435) against Southampton without scoring in the Premier League than he has against Liverpool (six games, 400 minutes).

Indeed, Burnley have failed to score in six of their last seven away Premier League fixtures, with their only goal in this run an own goal from Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the Clarets have lost their last two matches.

Jurgen Klopp is adamant Liverpool's recent woes in attack are simply down to poor decision-making in the final third rather than teams getting wise to their style of play.

The Reds head into Thursday's Premier League clash with Burnley having failed to score in any of their previous three top-flight games.

They beat Crystal Palace 7-0 just over a month ago but have since won just three points in the league, scoring once and seeing Manchester United rise to the summit. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men can return to the top with a win over Fulham on Wednesday.

Much of the focus on Liverpool's attacking issues has somewhat unsurprisingly been centred on Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, all of whom were disappointing in the 0-0 draw with United.

But Klopp seemed irritated when it was suggested a factor could be that other teams have learnt how to play against them.

"You can make of it what you want, it's football, it's not a new game, we didn't invent it new and then surprise the teams last year and they were like, 'oh my god, so that's how they attack'," Klopp said in his news conference.

"No team is to defend for a whole game, well, maybe a whole game but not then the next one. Other teams know what we're doing, last year they knew what we were doing, but we were still difficult to defend.

"Most of the good chances - we didn't miss them because they defended them, we missed because we didn't use them, so that is a massive difference. There are chances where we just have to finish them off better. That's the reason.

"Teams defend against us with all they have, that's not new. So, at the moment we have an 'offensive crisis', next headline will be everyone knows how to play against us.


"You smile as you ask the question but you know exactly what this kind of headline creates and what people are thinking, but it's normal. It's the situation we are in.

"I think I heard somewhere I have to rebuild this team? The world is a crazy place, not only because of the pandemic. It's because no one has time anymore, in football we know that.

"I've been in football long enough to know you never get time, you only get time if you make steps forward.

"After last season we haven't made steps forward, we know that, but we only make steps forward by playing not talking."

Of his first-choice attacking trio, Firmino seems to be the one receiving most of the criticism – after all, the Brazilian has only scored five times in the Premier League this season.

His goals (0.26) and assists (0.15) per 90 minutes this term across all competitions are the worst he has posted at Liverpool under Klopp, while his chance creation frequency is also at a low of 1.2 every 90 minutes.

It was put to Klopp that Liverpool have been less effective with regards to pressing this term, though Klopp dismissed the importance of that.

When asked how Firmino can get back on track, Klopp said: "By training, let's start with that, that's how it is.

"We didn't score a lot of goals in these games, it doesn't mean Roberto's performance dropped or whatever the counter press stats say – in this game it was not the case because a player wasn't there or we didn't do it well enough, we had a lot of great counter-pressing in this game, in other games before we press they may play a long ball, that's how it is.

"It's not always about your game, it's about the other team's approach as well, but we know we're not exactly where we want to be, there are some reasons but that’s not important, it's that we have to fight and we do."

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