Sunday 17th January 2021 will be a complete showdown in England. It is a match that decides United or Liverpool’s title capability amid an in-form Manchester City side.
Yes, it’s only three points that are up for grabs, yet the outcome of that fixture can pave way for title dreams for United or crush it entirely.
If United gets a good result (a draw or a win), it can give the players a strong belief that this year may finally be that year. The year they get to remind England that they are the most dominant club in English football history.
A thrashing on the other hand(3-0, 4-0) will go a long way to remind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his band of young Red devils that they are still way off the top teams in England.
The importance of this fixture can be said to play a higher psychological role than a win can do for either team.
Coming into this game, Manchester United have a point to prove likewise Liverpool. You have to argue that it is a bigger game for Manchester United(cos Liverpool has for some time now being a top team).
PS: Liverpool has been training for days for Manchester United visit through (11 vs 11 short games in training). They are looking to regain their rhythm and form.
Therefore for this game, only the best eleven would suffice, nothing less!
So, who exactly makes up Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s best eleven?
Not just his best eleven, but the best eleven to play Liverpool come Sunday.
Let us come to terms with reality though. Manchester United have very good quality players. Yes, they do. But only a few are quite at the level of Liverpool’s star performers.
But briefly let’s take a look at,
What Liverpool will try to do
In this type of game, quality shows in possession, but the results depend on creativity and levels of finishing.
So therefore Liverpool will try to boss possession as usual, just like they have done throughout the season.
Liverpool would also target United build-up. United does struggle against well-organized high pressing sides.
Liverpool also have an unbelievably good home record especially against the “Big teams”. Liverpool has been unbeaten at Anfield in the EPL since April 2017 (almost four years).
What does all this entail for Manchester United?
It simply means that United should focus on the best part of their game. United are currently the best counter-attacking side in England. That fact is a bit undermined by the quality of finishing applied most times.
United also have a problem breaking down elite defenses. Liverpool would try everything possible to hide their defensive frailties. Trying all things possible to frustrate United.
The best option United can adopt is to allow Liverpool a fair amount of possession and hit them with deadly breaks.
This doesn’t mean that United should park the bus, hell no! United should also come to play football but should not look to dominate the game. This is because Liverpool are also counterattack kings on their own.
United do best when they press opponents high up the pitch, win the ball back, and go on to score. Provided we’ve agreed om this, how then should Man United line up.
Why Ole should go for a 4-3-1-2 formation.
Liverpool is famed for using their fullbacks maximally and using Firmino as a 10, playing in the half-space between the defense and midfield. They also look to overload the flanks with the fullbacks(Arnold, Robertson) and wide forwards(Salah, Mane).
The issue with Ole’s favourite 4-2-3-1 is that the wide wingers like Rashford, Martial, and Greenwood do not provide defensive cover for the fullbacks. This is so in order to provide a strong counter-attacking threat.
However, this approach will likely see United suffer defensively at Liverpool’s hands.
The 4-3-1-2 formation provides better defensive cover because the no. 10 also forms part of the side that returns to form a press if defending. It does all this while also providing enough counterattack threat(the two forwards).
This sort of line-up(4-3-1-2) has helped United immensely especially against Leipzig in the first leg of the Champions League (United 5-0 Leipzig).
Also, the DMF can plug the space between defense and midfield helping stop Firmino. The wide midfielders (Pogba, Fred) can support the fullbacks as well.
Here it comes!
Hmmm, right? Small objections?
Yes, Martial is struggling but he has the speed and trickery to trouble Liverpool on the breakaways. Something Cavani doesn’t have in abundance.
You can still swap them if you wish. But Cavani should have more effect off the bench than Martial. This is especially in the 2nd half when Liverpool energy levels have dropped.
Bailly should get the nod ahead of Lindelof. Especially against a speedy Liverpool front three who would be looking to put their speed to good use.
Shaw should get the nod as he has been a bit excellent in dealing with Salah’s threat in previous matches.
Can Manchester United beat Liverpool and break the Anfield Premier League record?
This will be an enticing one to watch.