Liverpool v Manchester United: Salah, Mane and Firmino v Rashford, Martial and Lukaku in Opta numbers
Liverpool host Manchester United on Sunday when the gulf between the two great rivals has arguably never been greater in the Premier League era.
United travel to Anfield trailing the Reds by 16 points, with Jurgen Klopp's men top of the table and looking a far more accomplished side than their rivals.
Jose Mourinho has taken the brunt of the criticism from United's perspective, with the coach failing to get the best out of many of his players and playing a drab brand of football, while Klopp has had contrasting fortunes.
Liverpool's feared attacking trio are pivotal to their title chances and leading the way for them again this season, so they have presumably been significantly better statistically than their United counterparts.
Well, Opta data brings some surprising conclusions, suggesting Mourinho ought to be putting more faith in his three main forwards…
997 - Romelu Lukaku has scored his first competitive goal for Man Utd at Old Trafford since March vs Swansea, ending a run of 997 minutes in all competitions without netting. Relief. #MUNFUL pic.twitter.com/pC1ADqMwBe
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 8, 2018
Mohamed Salah v Romelu Lukaku
Salah has picked up where he left off last term having scored 10 goals in 16 Premier League games, but Lukaku is enduring a difficult season, with his record of netting just six times in 15 outings perhaps indicative of United's struggles.
Salah's record of 33 chances created is also 20 more than Lukaku, but the Belgian's shot conversion of 21.4 per cent (compared to the 17.5 per cent recorded by his rival) suggests it is the service to him which has been the problem.
Further evidence of that is Lukaku had had 28 shots, 29 fewer than Salah (57). While criticism of the United star's first touch may be understandable, statistics seem to suggest his team-mates could be doing more to help.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 11, 2018
Sadio Mane v Anthony Martial
It has been a peculiar start to campaign for Martial, finding himself in and out of the team, yet he has still probably been one of United's most consistent players with seven goals from just nine starts.
The Frenchman is averaging a goal every 112 minutes, far better than his Liverpool counterpart Mane, who is netting a goal per 196 minutes. Martial's tally of 16 chances created is also two more than the Reds forward.
But Martial's most impressive facet this season is his conversion rate of 38.9 per cent. Mane's is the best of Liverpool's attack, but even his 18.2 conversion percentage is dwarfed by the United star.
“It’s a motivation, not a pressure,”
Sadio Mane insists he is motivated by the expectations placed on the Reds this campaign...
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 15, 2018
Roberto Firmino v Marcus Rashford
Brazil international Firmino has not been quite at his best this term, as highlighted by his record of four goals and three assists from 14 Premier League starts.
Rashford has played 436 minutes fewer than Firmino, yet still he has set up more goals (five) and scored just one less than him. The United youngster's five assists come from just 14 chances created, as opposed to the 21 laid on by the Livepool forward.
Firmino's shot conversion (14.3 per cent) is the worst of all six players, while Rashford's 17.6 per cent makes him slightly more accurate than Salah, though the England international has only attempted 17 shots.
@MarcusRashford's goal on Saturday looked great from all angles but we're big, big fans of this one!
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 11, 2018