For a couple of hours on Sunday Liverpool fans will throw off their usual disdain for Manchester United and be rooting for their great rivals as they take on Manchester City. Should Liverpool beat West Ham United on Saturday they would close the gap in the Premier League title race to three points having played the same number of games.
If United were then to beat City at The Etihad the following day, Liverpool’s title destiny would be in their own hands.
It is a big if, however, as United’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick faces his biggest test since coming in to replace sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
While United are unbeaten in their last eight league games under the German, only one was against a top-six team, four have ended in draws including a 0-0 home stalemate with relegation-threatened Watford last time out, and fans are still struggling to work out a recognisable style of football.
“(Pep) Guardiola has a clear idea of how he wants to play. This idea is the headline for everything that happens at the club — recruitment, players they will sign or, at one stage, sell,” Rangnick told reporters on Friday.
“This is the secret behind their success. They have a clear corporate identity and this is their guideline for everything that they do. That is for new players and staff members.
“This is what all top clubs in Europe have in common and this is something that needs to be developed and improved at Manchester United in the next couple of years.”
City, while suffering a blip in a 3-2 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in their previous home game, have won 15 of their last 17 Premier League games.
United did win on their last league visit to the Etihad almost a year ago, although that 2-0 triumph merely delayed City’s procession to a third title in four years.
Blackout in China
Chinese rights holders have told the Premier League they will not broadcast matches this weekend over the league’s planned show of support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, BBC reported on Friday. China is a close political ally of Russia, which calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.
The Premier League said on Wednesday teams will show their support at games from March 5-7, with all 20 captains wearing special armbands in Ukrainian colours.
The league said fans are encouraged to join players, managers, match officials and club staff.