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Liverpool may need 15-minute push to beat Manchester United as Jürgen Klopp trick should be obvious



Liverpool have been scoring as a duo lately and that could be decisive against Manchester United. A 15-minute burst can be an important part of the plan

Liverpool’s goals over the last couple of months have mostly come in pairs, and at different times from match to match. Their markers live up to the cliché of waiting for a bus.

In the final time-out, against Wolves, the Reds were held up for more than three-quarters of the game, but scored within four minutes of the break to seal a 2-0 victory. They found the net twice in the space of seven minutes against Leicester – thanks again, Wout – and also recently against Wolves in the FA Cup (albeit on opposite sides of half-time). Chances are they won’t score two goals in a row when Manchester United visit Anfield on Sunday. Erik ten Hag’s side have conceded just two goals (or more) in two of their last 11 league games, and in both cases the goals have come a long way.

However, there are two other recent examples of Liverpool scoring two goals in a short space of time which they should in some ways emulate against the Red Devils. This could turn out to be crucial.

The games in question were against Newcastle and Real Madrid, two games with very different results. What unites them is that the Reds quickly took a two-goal lead each time. They were lucky at St James’ Park as the home side already had their first clear chance in the competition, but Liverpool were leading 2-0 in the 17th minute. He had maintained this advantage against Real three minutes earlier.

Unfortunately for the Reds, the defending champions have a weird sort of control over the Champions League that allows them to bounce back from all sorts of terrible positions year after year. And boy, wasn’t that last week? But an exception remains for 2022/23 as Liverpool scored first and failed to win.

The Reds have won 11 and drawn one of the 12 league games they have led this season, averaging 2.82 points per game, which is broadly the same between the summers of 2018 and 2020, their peak. It seems absurd that Liverpool have been so resilient in this scenario in 2022/23, when elsewhere in the season they have been disastrously porous.

This reality is reflected in the first goal stats (via Transfermarkt). The Reds have scored seven goals in the first 15 minutes of Premier League games this season, finishing behind only Aston Villa and Brighton (both nine). Yet they also conceded six in that span, again tied for third place.

Where this becomes particularly interesting ahead of Sunday is that United have also allowed their opponents to score six times in the first quarter this season. The goals are spread over five games, of which only one has been won (against Everton, of course) and three of their five-game losing streak are in this group. They have also not been as productive as Liverpool in this period of games, scoring three goals.

And that’s why the matches against Magpies and Madrid are relevant. Jürgen Klopp needs to make sure his side are ready to play against United, aiming to score early and then play the match for their own teams. While United have the best goal difference in the first 15 minutes of matches in 2022/23 (+12 instead of -7, via Understat), it is Liverpool who have amassed the most goals expected in the first six of matches.

It’s been more than 10 years since a team came from behind to win a match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield, and it was four years before the Reds last won in this scenario. Of course that doesn’t mean it can’t happen this weekend, but it’s clear that scoring first is essential. A lightning start, fueled by a raucous home crowd, could very well be Liverpool’s road to securing the three points.