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Why Mo Salah needs to emulate Danny Murphy

11:30 GMT+3 24/02/2019
Danny Murphy Mohamed Salah Liverpool
The Egyptian has failed to score or assist against the Red Devils and should use the former Reds midfielder's exploits as a blueprint to follow

Fact: Liverpool are behind Manchester City in the Premier League on goal difference.

Fact: Liverpool have a game in hand on the reigning champions.

Fact: that match is an away fixture at Old Trafford against a Manchester United team who have found a rich seam of league form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and who would relish the chance to scupper their great rivals' title bid, even if it aids their Mancunian neighbours.

United away looms over Liverpool’s season like a semi-impregnable medieval castle, only this time they need to scale the walls or their 29-year wait to be champions of England could be extended into a fourth decade.

It’s not even as if Liverpool enjoyed much fortune at Old Trafford when they dominated the domestic game in the 1980s, winning there just once in the league in that decade (in April 1982) and then only once in the 1990s (2-1 in March 1990 as they closed in on their 18th and, as yet, last league championship).

Liverpool won 4-1 there in March 2009 under Rafael Benitez in a game that promised a shift of power, but instead saw United land their 18th league title at the end of the season to draw level with their great rivals.

And the Reds' title challenge under Brendan Rodgers in 2013-14 saw them win 3-0 against a David Moyes-era United with Steven Gerrard wasting the chance to score the Premier League’s first ever penalty-kick hat-trick (fact: as it stands, Gerrard has scored 21 per cent of the visiting penalties at Old Trafford in the Premier League era).

If those two wins were a rare departure from United’s decades-long home dominance over Liverpool, then the only period when the Merseysiders have consistently bucked that trend was the early 2000s, when in the space of three-and-a-half years they won three league games at Old Trafford, all of them finishing 1-0 to the visitors and with Danny Murphy scoring the winning goal in all three.

That trio of strikes represented 12% of the Premier League goals the former Liverpool midfielder scored for the Reds and 6% of his top-flight career haul.

A personal guarantor of victory at Manchester United, those three Murphy-inspired wins were more than the likes of Crystal Palace, Fulham and Cardiff have ever managed at Old Trafford in the league.

All of which brings us to the present day.

Liverpool in 2019 have an array of players superior in nearly all cases to the work-in-progress squad of Gerard Houllier, but they do not have a Danny Murphy.

Mohamed Salah has netted 49 Premier League goals in less than two seasons at Liverpool (only two fewer than Murphy scored in his entire top-flight career) but is yet to score or assist against Manchester United – the only team he has faced for the Reds without doing at least one or the other.

Some players offer big goal totals, others serve up big goals.

Last season’s match at Old Trafford was one of only four league games all season when Salah was restricted to a single shot.

Liverpool (14) had almost three times as many efforts as United (five) but nine of those were low-quality chances from outside the box, seven of which were blocked by an extremely committed United defence.

In short, Eric Bailly’s own goal spoiled an almost perfect day for Jose Mourinho’s well-drilled troops.

United’s determination to compete with Liverpool on Sunday is non-negotiable and Liverpool have to find a way past them, or that cherished game in hand will have been squandered and City will be a point behind Jurgen Klopp’s team at best.

Salah has already graced many big games in his time at Liverpool but it feels like this is one where he has to deliver.

Danny Murphy may not be the name that most associate with the Reds but he is the man that the Egyptian should try and emulate.

Do just that on Sunday and, who knows, perhaps Liverpool fans can start dreaming about a first top-flight title in 29 years.