Manchester United and Liverpool have been dominating English football for years now- sans the past couple of seasons maybe- and it’d be nothing short of a spectacle when they play against each other this Sunday. As both teams look set to what might prove to be a crucial fixture in the race for the top four this Sunday, let’s have a look at what may transpire this weekend.
The past couple of weeks has seen a dip in form for van Gaal’s Red Devils with some sour performances. Although the defence looks better than what it was at the beginning of the season, it is still proving to be susceptible and quite easily undone on many occasions. Scoring goals has become a major worry off late. Discount the Spurs game and United have scored just 17 goals in 13 matches and even if we include last weekend’s match, it is just 20 in 14 matches against top 10 opposition and that’s less than 1.5 goals a game and by United’s standards, that’s poor.
Liverpool on the other hand though have proven to be a shade of what they were when they travelled to Old Trafford in the reverse fixture earlier this season. The return of Daniel Sturridge has rejuvenated the team and they are now in prime form. Unlike United, they look much more set now and stepping up the gas to qualify for the Champions League for next season. Liverpool look a different side with Coutinho operating in the centre and Emre Can’s role at the back is providing them some much needed stability.
Players to watch out for
1. Philippe Coutinho
Outstanding. That was how Coutinho played against Manchester City as he gave the City defenders a nightmare. Easily the best player on the pitch for either side at this moment, the Brazilian has come of age this season. His ability to take on defenders has won him many admirers and he is sure not afraid to take a try from outside the box and David De Gea would surely be kept busy on Sunday by Coutinho.
2. Michael Carrick
Michael Carrick showed his worth against Tottenham exactly why he should be in the team week in week out. His ability to pass the ball around, control the midfield and then come up with the occasional goal still makes him the best central midfielder LvG has got. He will be very vital against a resurgent Liverpool team as their midfield is coming on their own these days. With the likes of Jordan Henderson patrolling the Liverpool midfield with ease, it’ll be important for Carrick to help United maintain possession and prevent the counter attacks with which Liverpool can be so deadly with given the history of recent encounters between the two teams.
Battles that may decide the match
Note: Since it is uncertain as to who would play where, certain positions have been allocated with two players.
1. Wayne Rooney vs Martin Skrtel/Emre Can
The English striker looked out of sorts in the midfield and is now where he truly belongs. Although he is not at his best, it is heartening to see the way he played against Newcastle and Spurs. The Liverpool defenders hope that such a thing doesn’t occur. We all know how destructive Rooney can be and Skrtel and co don’t want that to happen. This battle will be one that might probably decide the winner for without Rooney, United does look a bit toothless going forward.
2. Jordan Henderson vs Daley Blind/Ander Herrera
The departure of Gerrard will surely leave a big void at Liverpool and Henderson might just prove to be a worthy successor. This might be Henderson’s first big test in the central midfield role as he was often changing his positions earlier this season. The battle for the midfield might as well decide the match as both teams rely on fast attacks. For United, Ander Herrera has been a fringe player for most of the season but his exploits in the League Cup have earned him a first team spot- at least for now. His short passing dictates the speed of the game. If not Herrera, Daley Blind would play there and like Michael Carrick, Blind is a wonderful distributor of the ball.
Simon Mignolet, Emre Ćan, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Lazar Markovic, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho
Brad Jones, Mamadou Sakho, Joe Allen, Jordan Ibe, Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli, Kolo Toure
David De Gea, Daley Blind, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney
Subs: Anders Lindergaard, Rafael, Tyler Blackett, James Wilson, Radamel Falcao, Adnan Januzaj, Angel Di Maria
United 2:2 Liverpool