Saturday 12th September, 2015, 17:30 GMT
One of the fiercest rivalries in the history football will be renewed on Saturday when Liverpool travel up the M62 to face Manchester United at Old Trafford, a destination where the Reds have had mixed fortunes in the past few years.
Louis van Gaal and his Manchester United side have had somewhat of a subdued start to the season with transfer speculation, injuries and what not. Now with the transfer window shut, and his trump card, David de Gea staying, the Dutchman would see this as a second start to the season. Brendan Rodgers, on the other hand is fighting for his future. The Northern Irishman suffered the ignominy of losing 3-0 at the hands of West Ham at home, for the first time in over 50 years. This fixture presents the perfect opportunity for Rodgers to bounce back, but it seems a pretty daunting task indeed.
Team News, Tactics and Formation
David de Gea signing a new four year contract at Old Trafford would have surely set many tails wagging among the United faithful, and he should be an automatic starter between the posts on Saturday. The Spaniard can make a huge difference with his mere presence and aura on the field, and now that he has signed a new deal, he can focus on football and forget his Madrid nightmare.
Daley Blind, who is the potential weak link in the United back four, will partner Chris Smalling at the back. The impressive Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw will slot in as fullbacks and will look to bomb forward as much as possible. Michael Carrick, who has been very impressive for United in central midfield is a doubtful starter for this one, and may play off the bench. Schweinsteiger will slip into Carricka s position and play alongside Morgan Schneiderlin. They are the fulcrum of this team, and if they do have their way, it might well turn out to be Uniteda s day.
It would be a surprise to many if the most expensive teenager, Anthony Martial is thrown straight into the firing line. Van Gaal might bring the young Frenchman later on, but the spotlight is on Wayne Rooney. After his England exploits, where he smashed Sir Bobby Charltona s record, a more confident Rooney should relish the prospects of facing Dejan a unenforced errora Lovren and Martin Skrtel. Mata, Depay and Herrera are the usual suspects to cast the supporting role behind Rooney, but Van Gaal would be tempted to play Fellaini just off Rooney, given his success at Anfield last season. The Belgian would also be very handy during set-piece situations and is the ideal man to handle compatriot Christian Benteke.
Probable XI (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Shaw, Blind, Smalling, Darmian; Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger; Depay, Fellaini, Mata; Rooney
They might have gotten used to it, but it must be pretty weird for the travelling Kop to see a Steven Gerrard-less team heading out of the tunnel at Old Trafford. There is no a captain fantastica to drag them out of the bog, and ita s time for someone to step up and take the initiative come Saturday. It might be totally ridiculous to say Henderson can step into Gerrarda s shoes, but the Liverpool captain is one player youa d pick first in your starting eleven. Rodgers is sweating on his captaina s fitness and it might be touch and go for the former Sunderland man.
After some solid defensive displays in the first three games, Liverpool went back to square one with defensive suicide being the order of the day against West Ham. Many Liverpool fans want Sakho in the starting eleven, but knowing Rodgers, the manager will most likely partner Lovren with Skrtel in the centre of defence. Nathaniel Clyne would have his task cut out, contributing to the attack and defending against Depay. It remains to be seen if Gomez continues as left back or if Rodgers fancies a natural left footed player in Moreno, to get more width on the left hand side.
Liverpoola s game plan would be more or less similar to what they did at the Emirates. Packing the midfield, a dominating space, not possessiona , playing on the counter attack would top Brendan Rodgersa briefing to his team. Lucas will play as the holding midfielder with Can and Milner supporting him. With Lallana doubtful and Liverpoola s talisman Coutinho suspended, we might well get to see Danny Ings get his first start for Liverpool. All depends on Hendersona s fitness though, and should the Liverpool captain be available, we might see Milner play his familiar role on the right, with Firmino on the left and Benteke upfront.
Benteke had a poor game against West Ham and he would be the focal point and outlet for the Liverpool midfield. The Reds will predictably hit the ball long to Benteke, and if he manages to win most of his headers, the oncoming runners can make merry. It should make for an interesting contest tomorrow and one can expect a cagey start to the game.
Probable XI (4-3-3): Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Lucas, Can, Milner; Ings, Benteke, Firmino.
- Saturday’s game will be only the 3rd PL match between United and Liverpool not to feature at least one of Ryan Giggs and Steven Gerrard.
- Liverpool took only one point from their four away games against the top four in the Premier League last season.
- Christian Benteke has scored in his last two league outings against Manchester United. (both for Aston Villa).
- This fixture has produced 16 red cards in the Premier League. Only Everton V Liverpool has produced more (20 red cards).
Player to watch out for
Memphis Depay (Manchester United)
The Dutchman has not exactly set the Premier League alight since his move from PSV. He did have a good game in the Champions League against Club Brugge, and will be desperate to do well in the Premiership and especially against Liverpool. Depay might switch flanks and play on the right hand side and target the inexperienced Joe Gomez, should the young Englishman start. It promises to be an interesting game and Rodgers would have looked at how the Swansea players and Kyle Naughton in particular, shunted out Depay from the game.
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool
It is always tough to predict crunch games like these, but with a vociferous crowd backing them, one cana t help but think that United will edge this one. In addition to this, Philippe Coutinhoa s absence will impact Liverpool immensely, and the likes of Firmino, Benteke, Milner and Can need to take control of the game as soon as possible. It also depends on who scores first. If United manage to get the lead, Liverpool would find it really hard to stage a comeback as the Reds have only won one game in their last 12 league games after conceding first. Regardless, it promises to be a fascinating contest with the possibility of new heroes emerging and of course, the schadenfreude continuing between both sections of fans.