On Tuesday, Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League thanks to a performance at home against FC Basel that—aside from the final ten or so minutes—simply wasn't good enough. On Saturday, they face United in a match that could either be exactly what they need or the absolute worst thing possible that they could get right now.
For a side that isn't exactly brimming with confidence, the motivation that comes from facing off against rivals United could work in their favour. Or, with that United side looking far more solid this season under Louis van Gaal than they did when the sides last met and David Moyes was in charge, it could all end in tears. Joe Allen, at least, is hoping for more of the former.
"We had a fantastic result there last season, so we'll be looking to draw some confidence and inspiration from that performance and we'll go there and try to get the win," said Allen, though what value can be drawn from a victory at Old Trafford while Liverpool were in an unmatched run of form and David Moyes was on the verge of being sacked is an open question.
In March of last year, Liverpool had begun to look an invincible offensive juggernaut; United looked disheartened and rudderless under a manager who appeared overwhelmed by his job. While Liverpool's 3-0 victory didn't directly lead to his ouster, that United couldn't muster any fight against their rivals likely played a role in his sacking a month later.
This time, it's Liverpool in a similar position to United of last season. Rodgers' position may not be as tenuous as Moyes', but an uninspired, uncompetitive performance that makes it look like Liverpool can no longer even raise their game against an opponent like United would be a blow. Calling it a must-win match would be to overstate it; calling it must-look-competitve wouldn't.
"They are great games to play in between two clubs who are massive globally, and there's a great rivalry between the clubs," added Allen. "These matches are great to be a part of. Last season it was a great feeling to go to Old Trafford and get the three points and all of the players want that feeling again."
Everybody Liverpool fan on the planet wants that feeling again, too. Maybe, after what has so far been a tough, disheartening season, the added motivation that comes from facing a rival like United will be just the thing to help get back to it.