Manchester United travel to Anfield to face Liverpool in the last 16 of the Europa League, in a match United manager Louis van Gaal admits he has to win.
After seeing off FC Midtjylland in the last round, United are in for a difficult tie against their historic rivals as the sides meet for the first time in Europe.
Van Gaal knows the importance of the tie and knows that he needs to be successful in this competition if he wishes to remain at Old Trafford next season.
In his pre-match press conference the United boss said: “You have to win. United and Liverpool is always a big game. It’s historical and even bigger now because both teams are fighting for a Champions League place.”
With both sides having outside chances of reaching the top four in the Premier League, winning Europe’s secondary competition is the alternative route to qualify for Champions League football next term.
Van Gaal also questioned English footballs negative attitude towards the Europa League and insisted that the competition is important, he said: “The fans of Manchester United are appreciating it. How many fans do you think we’ll have against Liverpool (at Old Trafford)? I think maybe 75,000.
“I think Anfield is also sold out, so that’s what I have to say, it’s very important for both teams and the fans want to see the duels between us.”
United come into the game looking to bounce back after a 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at the weekend, a defeat which ended their previous good run of form of four consecutive victories.
As for the home side, despite being beaten by Manchester City on penalties in the Capital One Cup final, they bounced back to beat the blues three days later with a convincing 3-0 win. That was then followed by a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace meaning Jürgen Klopp’s men will be confident of beating United at Anfield.
The last time the sides met, back in January, United ran out 1-0 winners as Wayne Rooney scored the only goal of the game at Anfield. United also beat the Merseyside club 3-1 in September when Anthony Martial announced himself to the United faithful on his debut with a memorable goal.
United were last beaten by their rivals in March 2014 with a 3-0 defeat in the Premier League.
It seems United’s injury concerns are in fact improving as Antonio Valencia and Bastian Schweinsteiger are nearing their returns, the former is likely to be on the bench on Thursday night.
Juan Mata is available for the tie as his recent red card against West Brom suspends him only for domestic fixtures. Jesse Lingard does miss out through suspension and Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Adnan Januzaj are ineligible.
Van Gaal also revealed that he is confident more players will return for United this month as they look to push for a strong finish to the season.
As for the home side, Jürgen Klopp admits that he has a strong selection ahead of the tie with various players returning from injury in good time for the derby.