Matic warns United must improve

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is fresh for a goal hunt at Old Trafford after he was rested for their midweek Champions League tie against Porto.
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is fresh for a goal hunt at Old Trafford after he was rested for their midweek Champions League tie against Porto.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Manchester United and Liverpool players and staff do not need any reminding as to what is at stake in the biggest fixture in English football tomorrow.

While there was never any shortage of spice in the north-west derby, the battle for second place in the Premier League surely provides it.

With neighbours Manchester City 16 points clear at the top and needing just four more wins to be sure of the title, United fans would view Liverpool finishing above them as more salt in their wounds.

The Red Devils, who with 62 points are two ahead of third-placed Liverpool, have lost one derby at Old Trafford this season, 1-2 to City in December. That remains their only home defeat of the campaign.

"It is a big game against Liverpool," United manager Jose Mourinho said.

"We both want to finish in the top four, but we both want to finish second so, yes, it is a big game."

NOT OUR BEST AGAINST PALACE

We'll show the same character as we did (against Palace)... but we have to be honest... we have to play better, especially when you see our first-half performance.

NEMANJA MATIC, Manchester United midfielder, exhorting his side to raise their game against Liverpool.

United have frustrated their supporters at times this season, showing glimpses of turning their individual quality into a potent collective, but failing to deliver the consistency needed for a title challenge.

They showed plenty of character in Monday's come-from-behind 3-2 league win at Crystal Palace, but they need to show improvement when Liverpool visit, midfielder Nemanja Matic has said.

"We have to do more if we want to win as Liverpool are a team with great quality. We have to play better, but with the same character," Matic told the club's website.

"We'll show the same character as we did (against Palace)... but we have to be honest... we have to play better, especially when you see our first-half performance.

"It is obviously great to win game by game and, when you have a match against Liverpool coming up, a big derby, it's important to go into that with a win."

Jurgen Klopp's side go into the game on the back of three successive league wins, with just one defeat in their past 20 league games.

In Egypt forward Mohamed Salah, they boast the league's joint top scorer with 24 goals.

Having booked their place in the last eight of the Champions League with a 5-0 aggregate win over Porto on Tuesday, the Reds are on a scintillating run but, in a big match, form often goes out of the window as Dejan Lovren acknowledged.

"It will be a massive game - one of the biggest games in Europe," said the Reds defender.

"It will be a tough game and let's see what will happen, but we are full of confidence and it'll be a big fight for second place."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2018, with the headline 'Matic warns United must improve'. Print Edition | Subscribe