(Reuters) - Former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann believes bitter rivals Manchester United will have the edge on the Merseyside club when they meet in a high-profile Premier League clash at Old Trafford on Sunday.
After a mixed start to the season, sixth-placed United are on an 11-game unbeaten run in the league and have closed the gap on the top four to just three points.
Hamann believes home manager Jose Mourinho has the best squad in the league and with momentum on their side, could be difficult to stop for second-placed Liverpool this weekend.
“Whether a 10-point lead for Chelsea is too much I‘m not sure but I still believe United have the most talented squad and once Mourinho’s teams get going they can be very hard to stop,” Hamann told Sky Sports.
“You’ve got to watch out for them in every competition, and in the Premier League I think they’ll be a team to watch out for in the coming months,” added the German, who was part of Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League-winning side.
Second-placed Liverpool will be without top scorer Sadio Mane, away on Africa Cup of Nations duty, and Hamann believes the Senegalese winger’s absence could be one of the reasons why Juergen Klopp’s side will struggle at Old Trafford.
“Mane has been one of the most influential players in the first part of the season,” he said.
“So I think United, who nullified Liverpool at Anfield (in a goalless draw in October) might have the edge on Sunday.”
While Hamann’s Liverpool career is firmly in the past, present day midfielder Lucas Leiva is considering his long-term future but admits the club’s title challenge may keep him at Anfield until at least the end of the campaign.
The 30-year-old has made just 14 appearances this season and is looking for more playing time but insists he will only leave if he can secure a permanent move.
“The situation is not great. It is not something I want for my future, to have not many games,” the Brazilian told the British media.
“I don’t want this for my career, especially at my age. I‘m not close to retiring and have many years ahead of me.”
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru