Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was favourite to win the Premier League's sack race before the season begun, and his odds must have been slashed further after their amusing 3-0 thrashing at home to West Ham last time out. However, their results have matched United's identically so far this season: two wins have been followed up by a draw and a defeat, leaving them only two goals behind Louis van Gaal's side in the table.
Though Van Gaal's United career to date has been pretty hit and miss, two of his biggest hits have both come against the Merseysiders. A 3-0 win at Old Trafford last December came courtesy of goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie, before the Spaniard netted a brace in a 2-1 victory at Anfield back in March -- a game that also produced one of the greatest Premier League moments in history, when Steven Gerrard was sent off within seconds of entering the field.
So, while these sides are neck-and-neck in the formbook, recent history and home advantage certainly suggests United will have the edge on Saturday.
United are still expected to be without Phil Jones, while Michael Carrick could also miss out after picking up a calf injury over the international break. David De Gea could make his first competitive appearance for United in four months with the close of the transfer window, though summer signing Anthony Martial will almost certainly have to settle for a spot on the bench.
Liverpool have several of their most important players unavailable or doubtful, including suspended star man Philippe Coutinho. Jon Flanagan and Joe Allen will almost certainly be joined on the sidelines by Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson, and Daniel Sturridge will likely only feature from the bench after returning from an injury lay-off in mid-week.
Liverpool's injury crisis makes it pretty difficult to guess how they're going to set up, but Brendan Rodgers is likely to stick with the back four he's favoured through the season so far. Though one-time United target Nathaniel Clyne is a strong defender at right-back, Juan Mata's opponent will be the inexperienced Joe Gomez, who will have the rather unconvincing Dejan Lovren mopping up behind him.
Rodgers likes his team to press high up the pitch, and the energy Liverpool have in the centre of the pitch will certainly help. The industrious duo of Emre Can and James Milner will likely play more mobile roles ahead of anchorman Lucas Leiva. Though it should be fairly strong defensively, it's a midfield lacking in a star playmaker, perhaps making life a little easier for United's defence.
However, that isn't to say they'll have an easy ride. Centre-forward Christian Benteke is a very dangerous player, with a pace and power that could well cause big problems for Daley Blind. Out wide, young Brazilian attacker Roberto Firmino adds Liverpool's creative spark, and he'll look to drift into the centre of the pitch whether he starts on the left or right. Keeping him quiet could well end up being Morgan Schneiderlin's biggest task.
On the ball, United's biggest task will be bypassing Liverpool's press; as ever, that means moving the ball quickly across the pitch in order to take advantage of spaces vacated by their mobile midfield. It'll be a game of cat and mouse, with United trying to draw their opponents out of position and pouncing in behind. Of late, United's passing has been too pedestrian to pull off such a game plan convincingly, but hopefully Van Gaal's side will raise their game for the first derby of the season.