Liverpool visited Manchester a month ago and received a “kick in the teeth” from Roberto Mancini’s City side, so manager Roy Hodgson is hoping to avoid a similar outcome against United tomorrow.
The fixture list has not been kind to the Reds as they have already faced Arsenal at home and City and Birmingham away – games which have brought just two points.
Their only Barclays Premier League victory so far has come against West Brom at Anfield, but Hodgson knows a win at Old Trafford would do wonders for morale.
However, he stressed that win, lose or draw against their arch rivals, the result will not be the pivotal moment in their season.
“You might get the shots in the arm which you help you or the kicks in the backside which bring you down, but the health of a football club should be judged by what goes on on a daily basis,” said the 62-year-old.
“We all know that you get your shots in the arm – like we did beating Steaua Bucharest 4-1 on Thursday in the Europa League – but we will also get our kicks in the teeth, like we did when we went to Manchester City (3-0 defeat).
“It is a part of football life and players need to be aware of that.
“If you have had the kick in the teeth, and it might be deserved, that is the reminder you have to do better.
“But when you get the shot in the arm that is the little reminder you have to be careful to keep your feet on the ground because around the corner disaster awaits.
“Having said that, we have had a really difficult start in the league and that does not get any easier, us having to go to Manchester United.
“But I see very positive signs and I’m very confident that the longer we work together, come May hopefully we will have a decent season behind us.
“This match has come a little bit early. Five games into the season is a poor time for barometer readings – they need to come at least a third of the way through the season.
“I would be very surprised if the intelligent people out there who understand the season is a marathon not a sprint will start reading too much into a defeat for one or the other teams.”
Barring last season’s 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford, Liverpool’s recent results against United have been good, with three wins in four matches.
Hodgson’s side may be a long way short of their best form but, having rested the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres in midweek, he is confident they can get another result against their north-west rivals.
Key to that, however, will be keeping a clean sheet – something they have done twice in four Premier League matches.
In the Champions League on Wednesday, Rangers showed what could be achieved against United with a determined defensive display.
And although Hodgson admits defence has to form the solid base for their performance, his side cannot go to Old Trafford and play like the Scottish champions did.
“We are going to put a team out which will defend well and attack well - something which we have tried to do in every game we’ve played so far,” he said.
“Sometimes we will succeed better than others but that is football.
“The first thing to do when you go to Old Trafford is to defend well because there are some very good attackers.
“They are very dangerous offensively so if your defensive set-up is wanting then they will punish you.
“But we won’t change our system from the way we played on Thursday.
“The things we tried to do against Steaua were exactly the same things we tried to do against West Brom and Birmingham with less success.
“Nothing changes. We know what we have to do, we know what principles we work under and we will keep working at it and keep trying to produce it on the field.
“It is important for us to give a good performance because our last one (the goalless draw at Birmingham) was below par.
“We weren’t as good as we can be and I hope we will at least be as good as we can be on Sunday – whether it is good enough to get us a result against Manchester United, that is another matter.
“Torres, Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Glen Johnson, Christian Poulsen, Martin Skrtel – there were a lot of players who have been able to rest in the week and they will be raring to go.”