This coming Saturday see’s two of England’s most historic clubs clash together as Manchester United face Liverpool at Old Trafford. Both teams will be wanting to bounce back after defeats in their previous Premier League fixtures, adding an extra incentive to the classic encounter.
So far this season Liverpool have shown very little evidence of improvements from last season. ‘The Reds’ currently lie 7th in the table with a total of seven points. Despite their respectable position, Liverpool have only scored two goals in four games so far, a worrying stat considering the amount of money the club has spent on attacking talent. One plus point for Liverpool fans is that their team has managed to keep three clean sheets in four games, however the game where they failed to keep a clean sheet saw three goals go past the Liverpool defence. Rodgers will know that his team must score goals if they are to challenge for a European place, especially with the rise of Swansea and Crystal Palace.
Manchester United’s previous Premier League fixture saw them suffer a disappointing 2-1 loss at Swansea City. Two lapses of concentration at the back as well as a lack of attacking intent was pivotal for the end result, and the reaction of both the Media and fans were made clear. They weren’t happy. Fans will be hoping that the signing of Anthony Martial will added some much needed pace to the attack, and David De Gea’s decision to further his contract will undoubtedly bolster the defence. A win over Liverpool is vital, not only for bragging rights, but it could also prove crucial come the end of the season.
Liverpool will be without the suspended Philip Coutinho, a crucial loss for Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge isn’t expected to make the match day squad, but rumours suggest there is a small chance he could make an appearance on the bench. Jordan Lallana and Jordan Henderson could make a late bid for the Liverpool bench, whilst Joe Allen is also unlikely to make the bench.
Manchester United will be without both Michael Carrick (Calf injury) and Phil Jones who is still recovering from a blood clot. Anthony Martial could make an appearance, but if he does it will most likely be from the bench. There are also doubts about the availability of Wayne Rooney who was missing from Manchester United’s Team bus on Friday night, indicating that he could miss the game against Liverpool.
Waking up on a Friday to the news that De Gea was close to signing a new deal and then one hour later learning that the Spaniard had extended his Manchester United contract was one of the happiest awakenings I have ever experience (sad I know). So I guess it not hard to guess who I have selected in goals, David De Gea. Last season David De Gea pulled off one of his most impressive performances in a Manchester United shirt against Liverpool, a performance which was vital in Uniteds push for 4th place.
In front of the Spaniard I expect to see a back four of Shaw, Blind, Smalling and Darmian as consistency at the back is one of the most important factors if a team is to succeed. Prior to the start of the season nobody saw Daley Blind as a starting Centre Back for Manchester United, and having let the likes of Jonny Evans and Blackett leave in the latest window it looks like Van Gaal has every intent in keeping him there. Although Blind has showed great ability on the ball, he has also shown a lack of pace and physicality (just watch the Swansea game), and against Benteke I expect Blind to struggle. Liverpool have won the most aerial duels this season (22.5 per game), largely down to the arrival of Benteke and I don’t see this changing on Saturday.
Moving to the midfield, I would like to see a midfield trio, including a defensive minded midfielder and two central midfielders ahead of him. In the anchor role I would start Schneiderlin. The Frenchman has shown from his Southampton days that he is more than capable of winning the ball back and distributing it quickly. Ahead of him I would start Schweinsteiger and Ander Herrera, two top class midfielders who have shown that they are more than capable of scoring a goal and assisting a goal.
I expect a front three of Depay (LW), Fellaini (ST) and Mata (RW). In previous years United fans were used flamboyant wingers running down the wing, beating their defender and wiping in a cross to the striker or arriving midfielders. So far United fans are yet to see this with Depay and Mata preferring to cut it, taking away the width from the team. Hopefully we will see Depay change up his game, and Mata (being predominantly left footed) using the runs of Darmian to his advantage. With Rooneys selection in doubt, I only really have one option upfront and that is the Belgium, Marouane Fellaini. This isn’t the worst thing that could happen for Manchester United. The midfielder offers a physical presence that can trouble any defender, and also acts as a target for the wide players. Let’s hope he’s on top of his game for Saturday’s fixture.
Overall, I can see this being quite a feisty encounter which could affect the overall quality of the game, resulting in a 2-0 win for Manchester United. Skrtel to get sent off.