The two English Football giants collectively share 38 top tier league titles between them.
On Sunday, the 16th of December, English football’s two most decorated clubs, Manchester United and Liverpool will lock horns once again in the Anfield crucible, each club having varying aspirations for the season. No matter what the context is, when Liverpool play United, it is always a big deal.
We at Khel Now have outlined the keys to success for both the clubs in order to win at Anfield.
1. Virgil van Dijk- the Pillar of Liverpool defence
Since his 75 million signing from Southampton last January, Van Dijk has been absolutely phenomenal in the Reds’ defence. Carrying the entire responsibility of the defence on his shoulders, the Dutchman has managed to keep 17 clean sheets since his debut last season, more than any other Premier League player. His contribution to the Reds’ unbeaten record this season in the League is invaluable.
However, with Joel Matip and Joe Gomez out with injuries and Trent Alexander-Arnold not fully fit yet, the 27-year-old alongside Dejan Lovren, will again have to step up to hold a possibly new defence line.
2. Fabinho and Keita to instil fresh blood into the Reds midfield
James Milner has been an unsung hero for Liverpool this season, but will be missed against the Red Devils due to injury. Nevertheless, new signings Fabinho and Naby Keita have already shown a glimpse of what quality they possess in the recent games and Jurgen Klopp will be happy to have them fit and available in absence of Milner.
The Brazilian is quite capable of nailing the defensive midfield job while the Guinean, with his forward-moving mentality, will have a key role to play between the transition of the game.
3. Jurgen Klopp should stick with 4-3-3 against the Red Devils
A lot of fuss was created among the fans when Klopp introduced an unusual 4-2-3-1 formation this season. Although Liverpool got the results they wanted, the performance just couldn’t please the fans as the Reds lacked their high tempo of last season.
But Klopp might have been forced to go for the new system as the attackers, particularly Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, were failing to score goals. However, now that the Egyptian looks to have returned to form and that the 4-3-3 formation has helped his side overcome Napoli recently, Klopp will, rather should stick to the same.
4. Salah’s return to form in time, a huge relief for fans
After a record-breaking last season, much was expected from Salah since the very beginning of the season. However, the Egyptian took his time to return to his scoring ways having five goals in his last five games in the Premier League including a brilliant hat-trick against Bournemouth last weekend.
The 26-year-old also scored against Napoli in the Champions League to help the Reds qualify for the knockout stages. Salah will once again be in the spotlight against the Red Devils as he is expected by many, to provide nightmares to their shambolic defence.
5. Will Anfield perform it’s magic again?
Time and again, Liverpool have won crucial games at its iconic Anfield Stadium, packed a huge number of enthusiastic fans, cheering their team up until the end. The game against Manchester City last season, then the one against Paris-Saint Germain a month ago and of course against Everton in the Merseyside Derby a fortnight ago are examples of how much effect the support from the fans has on the home team.
Moreover, having six clean sheets in seven League games at home this season, Liverpool have made Anfield their fortress which even Pep Guardiola’s City haven’t been able to conquer.
1. Jose Mourinho has to step up to the plate
For the first time in a few seasons, Manchester United will go to Liverpool as true underdogs with Liverpool sitting at the top of the table and United in 6th, 16 points behind their rivals. Jose Mourinho has always had a trick up his sleeve for big games in the past and this is as big as they come. Last season at Anfield, United parked the infamous bus and came away with a point thanks to the brilliance of David De Gea.
If United are to come away with the win, Mourinho has to play the game two steps ahead of Klopp, just the way he likes it.
2. United’s back four must move together
In recent games against Arsenal and Valencia, United have conceded through very similar own goals. A defender with the ball gets sucked out of his back line and into midfield. He loses the ball to a pacey forward and concedes a goal in his efforts to retrieve the ball.
The back four simply cannot seem to maintain their line while they press high up the field. This is probably down to the number of times Mourinho has been forced into changes to his back line, leading to a lack of communication.
United cannot afford to leave gaps in their defence against Liverpool’s mercurial front three. Any mistake is sure to be punished.
3. Play Marouane Fellaini
This might be an unpopular opinion amongst fans of Manchester United but Liverpool play a style of football that can be exploited by the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Fellaini with their sheer height. Liverpool’s high press has been the downfall of many English teams in the recent past and it is very unlikely that a team in a state of flux like Manchester United is going to be able to outplay them on the ground.
What United do have are tall players and pacey forwards who will have no problem turning their fullbacks after latching on to knockdowns.
4. Rashford or Martial must target Milner
Both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have found their goal-scoring boots prior to the derby. It remains to be seen if Martial will be fit for the derby but both him and United’s number 10 will be looking at 32-year-old James Milner as a potential point of weakness in the Liverpudlian defence. While Milner is a fantastic professional, he lacks the raw pace of Rashford or Martial and could be punished on Sunday.
5. Paul Pogba has to play
As it stands, Manchester United have very few players who can take a game by the scruff of its neck and get a win all on their own. Paul Pogba is one of those players. Much has been made about his relationship with Jose Mourinho and his apparent lack of form, but a game of the magnitude of Liverpool v United is tailormade for the Frenchman’s panache and arrogance.
We saw him do the impossible at Manchester City last season where he inspired a comeback that defied logic. Manchester United might well need something similar at Merseyside if they are to walk away with the three points.