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Man United-Liverpool tale of the tape: Mourinho edges Klopp despite flaws

It is the biggest game in English football, with the history, success and tradition of Manchester United and Liverpool colliding for the 200th time in competitive action on Saturday.

But which team is best-placed to claim runners-up spot in the Premier League behind Manchester City and potentially succeed in the Champions League this season?

Liverpool appear to be on an upward curve under Jurgen Klopp, with the free-scoring Mohamed Salah driving the team on, yet they sit two points adrift of United .

Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, is battling against accusations of negative football and his apparent inability to get the best from his players, despite winning two trophies last season and elevating United to second in the table.

So which of them, United or Liverpool, is really the best of the rest after City?

Here is the Tale of the Tape ahead of Saturday's Old Trafford clash.

Goalkeeper

United win this comparison by a mile, with David De Gea arguably not only the outstanding goalkeeper in the Premier League, but the best in the world.

The Spain No. 1 endured a difficult start at Old Trafford when he arrived as Edwin van der Sar's replacement in 2011, but he has now matured and developed into United's most consistent player.

He is Jose Mourinho's game-changer and game-saver, with the 27-year-old regularly making the difference between victory and defeat for United.

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have no such certainty and reliability in goal, though, with both Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet struggling to convince at Anfield.

Klopp has rotated between both, but now appears to have settled on Karius as his No.1. The 24-year-old is still some way short of being top class, however, and finding a new keeper is likely to be a priority for Liverpool this summer.

Verdict: United win this one, by some distance. De Gea is simply crucial to Mourinho's team.

Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho go head-to-head once more this weekend when Liverpool travel to Manchester United.

Defence

After 29 Premier League games, Liverpool have conceded 10 more goals than United so far this season, with Mournho's men letting in 22 compared to Liverpool's 32.

Only Manchester City have a better defensive record than United, but despite their ability to keep it tight at the back more convincingly than Liverpool, the men from Old Trafford are by no means watertight defensively.

De Gea's heroics have been crucial, but there have still been some high-profile defensive calamities by Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

United also continue to operate with converted wingers -- Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young -- as full-backs, so there is clear room for improvement.

The same can be said of Liverpool, but the £75 million January signing of Virgil van Dijk is a step in the right direction, with the Dutchman adding experience, confidence and presence to the defence when he has been fit to play.

Beyond Van Dijk, though, Liverpool still look vulnerable at the back. Andy Robertson is an upgrade on the erratic Alberto Moreno at left-back, but Nathaniel Clyne's season-long absence at right-back has been a problem.

Verdict: United shade this one because Mourinho's ability to organise a back-four remains better than Klopp's, but neither side will be totally happy with their defensive strength.

Jose Mourinho has a midfield conundrum as he looks to get the best out of Paul Pogba.

Midfield

United possess the greater talent, but making it work has been a puzzle that Mourinho has yet to solve.

How do you get the best from Paul Pogba? That is the question that has dominated Mourinho's thoughts in recent months and we still don't have the answer.

Nemanja Matic has been a sound addition to the squad, but United have missed Michael Carrick's authority and experience during his lengthy absence this season. Beyond those, Ander Herrera does a job, but is not top quality, while Marouane Fellaini continues to divide opinion.

United's midfield is simply a problem that needs to be fixed, but Klopp has made progress in solving his own midfield issues at Liverpool.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is now beginning to make a difference as a player prepared to carry the ball forward and the likes of Emre Can, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson have stepped up this season.

A fit and firing Adam Lallana would also make a big difference, while the summer arrival of Naby Keita from RB Leipzig will only make Liverpool stronger.

Verdict: Liverpool have the better midfield, not because they have the better players, but because Klopp's men make the system work. United still look like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces having fallen out of the box.

Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah have shone for Liverpool throughout 2017-18.
Liverpool's attack can frighten anyone.

Attack

Liverpool have outscored United by 67 goals to 56 so far this season in the Premier League and they have also scored seven in a match on two occasions in the Champions League this term, as well hitting other teams for five and four goals.

When they click going forward, Liverpool are unstoppable and the January sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona has not halted their stride in the slightest.

The pace of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino's strength, vision and goals and Mohamed Salah's prolific campaign make Liverpool a fearsome attacking force.

Salah tops the goals, assists and shots tables for Liverpool and the Egyptian is their star turn, a player capable of ending Anfield's six-year trophy drought.

United, meanwhile, possess the goal-scoring talent of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, yet they too often struggle to break teams down.

There is little flow to United's attacking moves and a lack of flair against the top teams.

On their day, United can beat anyone with their strikers, but that day does not come around often enough.

Verdict: Liverpool are simply breathtaking going forward and United cannot compete right now. That may change if their attackers click, though.

Football Whispers looks at the key facts and statistics ahead of Manchester United's clash with Liverpool.

Manager

Jose Mourinho vs. Jurgen Klopp is a battle of contrasts, like comparing night and day.

Mourinho is the serial winner, the demanding, moody Portuguese who, as he proved last season, always finds a way to win silverware, regardless of the style in which success is achieved.

Klopp, meanwhile, is the prince of the football romantics, building teams of energetic, young, talented players with the licence to attack at will.

The German sends his teams to play on the front foot, but Mourinho will always be safety-first and the United manager's record leaves Klopp's firmly in the shade.

Verdict: If you want style and entertainment, Klopp is your man. But the game is about trophies and Mourinho delivers them, whatever it takes.

Manchester United edge Liverpool in the table and remain slightly ahead of their rivals overall.

Final Verdict

Perhaps it is a case of style over substance, but Liverpool's flair and goal scoring have suggested that Klopp's team are the ones making most progress.

But the goals of Mane, Firmino and Salah may just divert attention from Liverpool's weaknesses further back and the reality is that United are ahead of them in the Premier League and have won three major trophies in the past two seasons.

United have the depth of squad and key personnel, but Mourinho has yet to make it all as pleasing on the eye as Klopp.

But the league table doesn't lie and United are ahead of Liverpool right now because they do more things right than their age-old rivals.

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_

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