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Manchester United Take on Liverpool, Hoping to Stay on Top of Premier League and Avoid COVID Curse

The Red Devils are three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table going into the match on Sunday, 17 January.

Whoever wins on Sunday, they will be under orders not to breach coronavirus protocols or risk sanctions.

​The Premier League is urging players not to hug after goals and avoid handshakes or swapping shirts.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told clubs: "We are fortunate to be able to continue to play and bring our competition to fans at home and around the world. This brings justified additional scrutiny and the Premier League must take the lead in setting the right example to follow."

Solskjaer said after the Burnley game on Tuesday: "We'll do our best to keep with the guidelines because we all want football to carry on safely."

​When United beat Burnley it was the first time they had been top of the Premier League since 2013 when Sir Alex Ferguson retired after leading them to the title.

Ferguson was replaced by a succession of managers - David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho - but they all struggled to replicate his success and the championship was won by Manchester City, Chelsea, Leicester City and last season United’s arch-rivals Liverpool, their first ever Premier League title.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a former United player and cult hero, was appointed as manager in December 2018 after Mourinho was sacked.

​After a dream start to his Old Trafford managerial career, Solskjaer’s team flattered to deceive last season but improved massively after signing Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

They started this season poorly and there was even rumours that Solskjaer would be fired but United have turned things around and gone on a great run of 11 games without defeat, including thrilling comeback victories at Southampton and Sheffield United.

​A Norwegian reporter asked Solskjaer this week: "If I had asked you three months ago, honestly, would you have dared to dream that Manchester United could travel as league leaders to Anfield in January?"

The United manager replied: "Well, I'm a dreamer you know. So... I dreamt about having this job too, and I've got it now. And there weren't many who believe that either. But you yourself need to have faith."

Liverpool won the title last season at a canter - they ended the season 18 points ahead of Manchester City, with United a further 15 points back - but they have stuttered a bit this year, losing 7-2 to Aston Villa in October and suffering a 1-0 defeat at Southampton in their last match.

Mario Cacciottolo, a Manchester United fan who lives in Malta, said he believed the game at Anfield on Sunday will end in a draw.

​Mr Cacciottolo told Sputnik: "United are in much better shape these days but the defence is still too porous, as we saw in the recent Carabao Cup game against Manchester City. Eric Bailly’s re-emergence has actually tightened things up a bit and he can be an excellent defender at times, but his injury record over the past few seasons is terrible and that’s not going to suddenly improve."

As for the Premier League title, he said: "I’d say City are favourites. They’ve got a better defence and have kept themselves in the race without (striker) Sergio Aguero. Now he’s coming back they can only get stronger and right now it seems like they’ll be the eventual winners."

City are four points behind United, having beaten Brighton 1-0 on Wednesday night.

Mr Cacciottolo added: "If United can sign two or three good players this summer and back them up with all the academy talent coming through then next season could be when United maintain a consistent league challenge."

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