Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes does not believe Liverpool are “playing poorly” ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup showdown.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United side face the Merseysiders in the fourth round of the competition a week after playing out a 0-0 draw with their fierce rivals in the Premier League.
That Anfield result was part of a five-game winless run in the league for the reigning champions, who saw their 68-match unbeaten home run in the top flight ended by Burnley on Thursday.
The Reds have now failed to score in four consecutive league games for the first time since May 2000, while you have to go back to Mainz in December 2006 for the last time that happened to a team managed by Jurgen Klopp.
Their lack of goals is not for want of trying. Liverpool have had 87 shots since Sadio Mane scored their last goal against West Brom in a 1-1 home draw on December 27, with 27 of those coming against Burnley.
The concern is the relative lack of precision from the usually formidable front three of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, as well as the quality of chances created. Liverpool’s expected goals tally against the Clarets was just 1.6, with only six of their shots hitting the target.
But Fernandes, who has himself faced questions over his recent form after managing just one goal and no assists in five matches in 2021, says Liverpool are undoubtedly still a dangerous side to face.
“I think teams have moments,” he told United’s website. “I don’t think Liverpool are playing poorly. I think they don’t win and this is the point.
“When teams don’t win, everyone talks about that. When players don’t score, everyone talks about that. I feel that on me because I know the standard is high, because I arrived and I scored a lot of goals and make a lot of assists, and everyone is wanting goals and assists from me.
“It is the same – everyone expects goals from Salah, from Firmino and from Mane. They are not scoring in the last games and it starts feeling like ‘oh, they are not playing well’.
-21 – After 19 games Liverpool are 21 points worse off than they were at the same stage last season (55 to 34). In the Premier League era, only Chelsea (-26) have had a worse points differential as defending champions 19 games into the season. Nosedive. pic.twitter.com/GMKCvrCtxt
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 22, 2021
“They create, they play, but the other teams are playing better [than before] and, as I said before, they have more qualities to play. Every team goes there to play maybe without the pressure of the fans. Teams play a little bit more comfortably and, as I say, I think it is a moment. We don’t have to look at that moment because big teams and big players can show in every moment.”
Regardless, Fernandes is eager for United to go one better this week and record a victory at Old Trafford as they look to keep up a chase for silverware on three fronts.
“In the past already, I have seen Manchester [United] playing for a long time and I know what that game means for the fans,” he said.
“Everyone knows and of course, for us, it means a lot because it is a cup [game] and it is a chance to put one of the strongest teams who are in the cup with us out. So we have to take that.
“Of course, we have so many teams in the cup in this moment that maybe you can have an easier game than this, but if you want to win the cup then you have to beat the biggest teams, so we have a chance now to beat one of the best that is left in the FA Cup.”