Manchester United will face Liverpool at Anfield in a top-of-the-table clash on Sunday. It is still English football’s greatest rivalry, but this is the most meaningful meeting between the two in the context of a Premier League title race in more than a decade.
United go into the game three points clear of Liverpool by virtue of winning their game in hand against Burnley on Tuesday. Even a draw would ensure that gap at least remains and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will have to be resilient to ensure they get a positive result.
But the United boss may have to make some big calls on formation and personnel, especially where a resurgent Paul Pogba is concerned, to ensure his team isn’t overpowered.
There are weaknesses in the Liverpool ranks and this isn’t the same vintage that romped to the title last season. Getting at Trent Alexander-Arnold and his defensive frailties is one such way United will receive some joy, as was the case in a 2-1 win at Old Trafford in 2018.
This is the United XI that Solskjaer could go with…
David de Gea (GK) – The Spaniard has played in more of these games than any other current United players and it was a famous win over Liverpool at Old Trafford in 2014 that helped cement his place as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (RB) – Will need to be at his best defensively to contend with Sadio Mane. That means positioning and overall awareness, which has been lacking of late, not just his famous one-on-one ability.
Harry Maguire (CB) – The United captain has overcome a very difficult start to the season following a tumultuous summer from a personal perspective, and perhaps best encapsulates the whole squad’s journey over the last three months.
Eric Bailly (CB) – Makes Maguire a better defender because of his pace on the cover and has played a crucial role in United’s recent run of wins. Last-ditch blocks have been vital and Victor Lindelof wouldn’t get back in the team even if he was fit.
Luke Shaw (LB) – Likely to get the nod over Alex Telles again. Is back to playing some of his best games for United now that he is on a run of good fitness. Getting forward will be key to try to pin Alexander-Arnold back and limit his attacking output.
Scott McTominay (CM) – Arguably United’s new Darren Fletcher in that he is undroppable for the biggest games. Scored in a Manchester derby last season and showed again against Leeds recently how he steps up for clashes with rivals.
Fred (CM) – Another who should come back into the team after being rested for the Burnley win. His energy and discipline will be key to preventing Liverpool from gaining a foothold in central areas. Paul Pogba, despite his recent form, could be sacrificed as a result.
Bruno Fernandes (AM) – United’s creativity will be the responsibility of a player who already has 44 goals and assists to his name since joining the club just under a year ago. Has at most gone two games with a goal contribution in the Premier League this season.
Daniel James (RW) – It has been a tough second season at United for the Wales international, but he started against Chelsea and Leeds when Solskjaer thought his pace would be a weapon. Ensuring United have that threat to keep Liverpool pinned back could see him involved.
Anthony Martial (ST) – It looks as though the Frenchman will be fit, despite a hamstring scare. If not, Edinson Cavani is a more than worthy replacement and at the very least will be a big asset off the bench to ask questions of Liverpool’s patched up centre-back pairing.
Marcus Rashford (LW) – United’s homegrown hero has had another massive week off the pitch and bagged an assist against Burnley. He turned Alexander-Arnold inside out the last time United beat Liverpool nearly three years ago and that is a weakness that must be exploited again.