Liverpool vs. Manchester United: A Rivalry Renewed
This Monday will see the two most successful clubs in English football history renew their rivalry once again.
Liverpool versus Manchester United is still one of the great Premier League clashes, despite the lack of recent success for Liverpool and the emergence of Manchester City as a nearer and clearer rival for United.
United have won the past four league meetings between these two, although Liverpool did come out on top in their two-legged Europa League contest last season. This is a new era for both clubs, however, as Liverpool are blossoming in their first full season under the guidance of Jürgen Klopp, and United famously brought in Jose Mourinho to try and bring them back to glory.
United were pegged as title favorites by many, but have struggled, while Liverpool have persevered through a difficult early schedule to look the better of the two sides thus far.
United are about to hit a similarly difficult run of matches, so they will be hoping to get off to a good start, while Liverpool will be looking to continue their strong form despite the probable absences of key starters Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Liverpool are currently on a great run of form, having rattled off five straight wins across all competitions since their 1-1 draw with Spurs back on August 27th. Last week, they followed up a 5-1 victory over Hull by grinding out a 2-1 win over Swansea, proving they are capable of battling out the close ones as well as blowing opponents away.
Klopp’s vision is truly starting to show, as the Reds’ high-flying, high-pressing attack is exciting to watch and has now started to produce results.
Meanwhile, United have been struggling for consistency so far under Mourinho. After losing in embarrassing style to Watford, they seemed to have found their form in a 4-1 win over Leicester. Wayne Rooney was dropped to the bench, Juan Mata looked a revelation, Paul Pogba popped up with a headed goal, and the Red Devils ran rampant against the reigning champions.
Last week, however, they drew 1-1 at home with Stoke after dominating the majority of the game. Mourinho still doesn’t have his side all on the same page, but they are getting there in fits and starts.
Liverpool will potentially be without two of their key midfield cogs as Lallana and Wijnaldum are struggling to get fit.
Lallana in particular has been a big part of the club’s early season success, contributing three goals and three assists. Without these two players, Klopp would be forced to rethink his midfield line in the 4-3-3 he employs.
The attacking trio of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mané have nine goals split evenly between them, but their partnership may need to be sacrificed.
If Klopp sticks with the plan he enacted when Lallana was taken off in the Swansea match, Coutinho will be dropped into a deeper role in the midfield trio, Firmino will be split out to the left, and Daniel Sturridge will claim his preferred place leading the line in the center.
Emre Can will likely be brought into that midfield as well, allowing Jordan Henderson -- who is on excellent form at the moment for club and country -- a freer role going forward.
As for United, there are no major injuries to cope with but still plenty of work to be done. This side is a work in progress, and this match will provide them with another early test of their mettle.
Zlatan Ibrahimović has not scored in the last three league matches after starting his United career off on a hot streak. He will need to be on form, at least holding up the ball and supplying his teammates, if the Mancunians are to have a chance at all three points.
Their other major summer signing, Paul Pogba, scored a stunning match-winner for France against the Netherlands over the international break. Now he must show he can be a big-match player in the Premier League after his disappointing showing against Manchester City earlier this season.
After giving Rooney the chance to maintain his place in the side and allowing him to play himself out of it, Mourinho will likely leave the star man amongst the subs once again this week. Juan Mata has been given a chance in the central role behind the striker, and he must shine once again as he did against Leicester.
Mata pulled the strings in that match, scoring one goal and supplying another. If he can have a similar impact on this game, it may be the key to exploiting Liverpool's shaky defense and getting them off their game.
|Aerial Duel Success||43%||58%|
The possession and passing statistics are nearly even between these two sides, but United are better in the air -- as you would expect with the likes of Pogba, Zlatan, and Marouane Fellaini in their ranks. Mourinho may be able to use this to his advantage, playing defensive, counter-attacking football, primarily focused on stymying Liverpool’s potent attack and then hoofing the ball up to larger bodies to spring counters.
|Shots Per Game||19.3||17.3|
|Goals Per Game||2.6||1.9|
Liverpool will be looking to dictate the flow of this game with their high press. They take two more shots per game, have a higher conversion rate than United, and have harried their opponents' back lines so far this season.
Since Klopp took over as Liverpool manager in October 2015, Liverpool have scored more goals (73) than any other Premier League team and have had the highest average possession percentage (58.8%). David de Gea will need to be on his toes.
It truly will be a clash of styles between the two sides and their high-profile managers. Mourinho is not averse to parking the bus and grinding out a win, while Klopp’s notorious pressing attacking will be pushing to score early and often.
If it weren’t for the injuries to Lallana and Wijnaldum, Liverpool would have to be favored given their current form and that they will be playing at Anfield. Without those two key players, however, Klopp would be forced to adjust his tactics.
Mourinho saw a glimpse of what this United side can achieve in their match against Leicester, but he needs to prove he can bring that out of them on a regular basis. Paul Pogba, in particular, must show he can be a big match player, given his performance in the early-season derby loss to Manchester City.
With all of these factors, one thing is for certain: this will be a hotly contested match as this rivalry enters a new era, and you won’t want to miss it.