|Date: Sunday, 5 March. Time: 16:30 GMT. Venue: Anfield, Liverpool.|
|BBC coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.|
England midfielders Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice should choose a move to Manchester United instead of Liverpool, says ex-United captain Rio Ferdinand.
Liverpool were English champions in 2019-20, but are sixth this season.
They host third-placed United at Anfield on Sunday (16:30 GMT).
“If you put the two teams on a graph, Manchester United are going in one direction and Liverpool have stagnated,” said Ferdinand on BBC Radio 5 Live’s The Friday Football Social.
Both Borussia Dortmund’s Bellingham, 19, and West Ham captain Rice, 24, have been linked with big-money summer moves.
And Ferdinand, who won six Premier League titles and the Champions League, during his 12 years at United, added: “I wouldn’t say Liverpool are in decline, but other teams are catching them up and maybe going beyond them.
“If I’m a player, say Jude Bellingham or Declan Rice – two of the most in-demand English midfielders that may get moves this summer – and someone says, ‘Manchester United or Liverpool, where are you going?’, forget my Manchester United ties, I have to go with United right now.
“The way the team looks, the way the squad is shaping up, the way the managers are navigating their teams’ fortunes and who I see being more successful in the upcoming future – I really would be sitting on the side of United.”
Liverpool won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup last season, lost in the final of the Champions League to Real Madrid and took the Premier League title race to the final day of the season, finishing one point behind champions Manchester City.
But Jurgen Klopp’s side are 21 points behind leaders Arsenal in this campaign and facing a last-16 exit in the Champions League, having lost 5-2 to Real Madrid in the first leg at Anfield.
Dutchman Erik ten Hag became United manager last summer and the club, sixth last season, have won the Carabao Cup and are in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and last 16 of the Europa League.
Ferdinand says he has been been “super impressed” with the job the former Ajax boss has done.
Ten Hag has not been afraid to make tough decisions, such as letting forward Cristiano Ronaldo leave in November after he criticised the club and manager, or dropping in-form Marcus Rashford to the bench after he was late for a team meeting.
“He has been tremendous in every department, whether it’s tactically, in-game management, making substitutions to affect games, to the big decisions he has had to make around big superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford,” added Ferdinand, 44.
“Ten Hag has gone into every one of these situations and come out looking much more positive – and the club is in a better place.
“He has set the benchmark from the get-go and it has been refreshing to see.
“I think he would’ve been astounded when he walked in to see how low the morale was and also standards-wise in all areas.
“He has stepped that up and got these little things right, like punctuality, discipline around the training ground, standards in training every day and the expectations everybody has of each other.
“He’s very personable, but there’s a real steeliness in his eyes. He’s enjoying it, but there’s loads to do.”
‘Get this game won’
United are unbeaten in 11 games after coming from behind to beat West Ham 3-1 in the last 16 of the FA Cup on Wednesday and Ferdinand felt the players would be relishing the match at Liverpool.
“As soon as the fixture list came out you knew when this game was coming and when you were at Anfield,” he said.
“You get told by the fans ‘get this game won’. United are favourites again – it has been too long.”