By Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal would rather be taking his under-performing team anywhere but bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday as speculation continues over his future at Old Trafford.
Van Gaal’s trials and tribulations are continuing to dominate the back pages with United slipping to sixth after conceding a last-minute equaliser to draw 3-3 at Newcastle United on Tuesday, a result the Dutchman said felt like a defeat.
In contrast, Liverpool’s 3-3 draw with Arsenal 24 hours later felt more like a win to boss Juergen Klopp after Joe Allen’s 90th minute equaliser stopped Arsene Wenger’s table-toppers in their tracks.
Liverpool’s rivalry with United is one of the most intense in English soccer and even after the thrilling draw with Arsenal Klopp was already thinking about United’s visit to Anfield.
“It was a great game of football,” he said, “and ultimately, we will talk about this game, maybe not for too long, because on Sunday we play Manchester United, but it will not be easy to forget it,” he said.
Van Gaal’s mood was far less upbeat, ruing the loss of two important points, and then insulting a journalist at the end of his post-match news conference.
“We had to win and we didn’t do it, we are very disappointed but can only blame ourselves,” he said.
The biggest problem facing Liverpool might be their own crippling injury concerns rather than United’s indifferent form which has seen them win twice in eight league matches.
Liverpool have 11 players in the treatment room, although they showed real resilience to gain a point against Arsenal.
Arsenal, who top the table with 43 points after 21 games, ahead of Leicester City on goal difference, travel to Stoke City on Sunday and could start the match in second place if Leicester win at bottom side Aston Villa on Saturday.
Leicester ended a run of three league matches without a goal with a late Robert Huth header giving them a 1-0 win at fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.
Spurs, who are now seven points behind the leaders, host relegation-threatened Sunderland in Saturday’s early kick-off with Sunderland buoyed by a 4-2 win at Swansea City on Wednesday with former Spurs favourite Jermain Defoe scoring a hat-trick.
(editing by Justin Palmer)