Manchester United v Liverpool Predictions – Tactical Preview
As we welcome Matchday 27 in the Premier League, a big clash awaits between Manchester United and Liverpool on Sunday. In terms of the recent context, this is probably the biggest United-Liverpool game since the Fergie-Benitez days.
The turn of this decade has seen the decline of both teams one by one, with Manchester City becoming the next superpower in England. However, things have started to fall in place for the Reds under the management of Jurgen Klopp.
For United, their no-show under Jose Mourinho got over when they got thrashed by Liverpool in December. Since then, they haven’t lost a league game under the stewardship of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Merseysiders are second in the table on goal difference, with a game in hand, while the Red Devils are fourth in the table, just a point ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal.
It has been pretty evident this season that the United faithful would rather sustain the pain of Manchester City winning the league, but wouldn’t bare Liverpool lifting it after 29 years. (h/t Channel News Asia)
Hence, at Old Trafford, we expect Solskjaer’s men to be pumped up for this contest more than ever. As for Liverpool, they can make a huge statement by beating their arch-rivals and taking a giant step towards finally lifting the silverware.
The plots have been laid down firmly, the action is not far away and the tension is building up in both camps.
Below we preview the game on a tactical basis, thinking from Ole’s and Klopp’s viewpoints as to how they can line their team up for the game on Sunday.
Expected formations and personnel
The above image shows us the probable formations and personnel with which both managers may start the game on Sunday. Talking about the home team, injuries to Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard meant Solskjaer played a different system against Chelsea.
Since the duo may not recover enough to start, we can expect the Norwegian to go with a similar shape against Liverpool as well. Romelu Lukaku will look to run on the sides of Virgil van Dijk and exploit the space left by an attack-minded Andy Robertson.
Marcus Rashford would be looking to run at the space between Joel Matip and Trent Arnold, which is plausibly a weak area of the Reds’ defence.
Juan Mata will have a big job of shutting down Fabinho and finding space in between the lines to trouble the opposition. Paul Pogba has been in terrific form since the arrival of the new manager.
Although he will move forward in possession, the Frenchman has to be aware of providing help to Luke Shaw when Mohamed Salah is running at the left-back.
Same would be the case with Herrera, because Mane and Salah one-on-one with Young and Shaw will spell disaster for United.
Nemanja Matic has been found wanting in some of the big games this season. The Serb has to make sure Roberto Firmino doesn’t start to dictate the press of Liverpool and create space for the other two forwards.
As for Klopp’s men, their style of play doesn’t change much from opposition to opposition. However, they have to make sure that they protect their possession situations very well, because the pace of Rashford up against Matip one-on-one on the counter would be deadly.
Furthermore, Fabinho must remain aware of the movements of Mata, who can drift into spaces and create problems. Wijnaldum will probably be against a resurgent Pogba.
The Dutchman has to cut out the passes to the Frenchman or the latter could link-up with Rashford to heap danger on the back-line.
The front three didn’t get any joy when they visited Old Trafford last season. It was partly because United sat deep and played on the counter. They never allowed space in behind.
We can expect something similar to happen, if not the same this Sunday. Hence, Salah and Mane have to be clever with their movements and must be pro-active to search for spaces in between the lines.
One can drop a bit deep to take possession to attract a defender and create space for others. Also, this is where Naby Keita’s creativity from midfield would come in handy.
The Guinean international is slowly showing is capability in a Liverpool shirt. If he performs well in this game, the confidence would go sky high.
To sum it up, United will be aiming to press the Liverpool build-up on the lower block and play on the counter-attack with pace and power of Rashford and Lukaku up front.
On the other hand, the visitors carry the threat up front and have van Dijk at the back to protect the counter-attacks.
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The midfield battle will be key and the floating number 10s of both teams (Mata and Firmino) can cause serious problems to either defence, if they are on their game.
There are so many things to look forward to, lets hope for a cracking game and the better team to win the game. A false referee intervention wouldn’t suffice the magnitude of this clash.