The former Reds star admits that a recent swing of the defending champions, as well as a long list of injuries, are cause for concern at Anfield.
There’s always a lot at stake when two old opponents lock the horns, but the stakes are raised before a highly anticipated meeting in Merseyside this weekend.
Liverpool are the reigning Premier League champions and the favorite of many to defend that crown in 2021.
United, however, overcame issues of consistency and leadership to rise to the top of the table, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are now watching the rest of the division.
McAteer isn’t convinced they deserve the reputation, but the former Liverpool midfielder admits Jurgen Klopp’s men aren’t in the best shape either, saying FreeSuperTips: “Even if Manchester United were to go to Anfield on Sunday and beat Liverpool, the Premier League title is not won in January so I’m sure there won’t be too much panic around Liverpool.
“Liverpool are in a fragile state and not in the best shape. This is due to physical and mental fatigue as the team is stretched with so many injuries.
“The only thing that worries me about Manchester United is that while they don’t have the best team or a great team, they are so vulnerable defensively – they have the worst defensive record among the top 11 teams, conceding 24 goals. – they grind the results, in the same way as the Burnley victory Tuesday night which bodes well for them.
“Manchester United haven’t faced any real injury adversity this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjær has always been able to choose from a large number of players and he hasn’t lost any of his key men like Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Fred.
“At the moment, Manchester United are doing well. You can’t deny where they are now and you have to give them credit for being at the top of the Premier League right now which makes this weekend’s game even more exciting.
“Liverpool have the best home record and so far United haven’t lost away so it could be a classic, which we haven’t had in a long time.”
Liverpool will once again be without a number of key men when they face United, with McAteer admitting that premature injuries have become a source of serious concern.
He added: “The fact that Jurgen Klopp had to keep changing the squad due to all the injuries is disrupting the flow of the squad. Since Jurgen Klopp arrived at Liverpool the team have had 41 or 42 different center-back combinations, which is phenomenal.
“Jordan Henderson recently played center-back alongside Fabinho, the two young children (Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams) have moved in and out of the squad, and the pace has been nonexistent. When you take Fabinho out of midfield, there’s a big gap that forms. Especially when Liverpool are playing away, it causes the opposition to attack more, making the teams less afraid to ask Liverpool questions.
“In Liverpool’s matches this season against Everton, Brighton and Fulham, they lost points when you usually think Liverpool would win. However, in this current climate with the way Liverpool play and the way they are set up away from home, the teams are more confident and not as afraid to attack as they were before. Liverpool made mistakes and were punished for them.
“However, come May at the end of the season, Manchester city and Liverpool will fight for the league title and Manchester United will burn as the season develops.