Liverpool v Manchester United: Five key battles to look out for
When two tribes go to war....
They’ve met 226 times in all competitions and are the two most successful clubs in England. Boasting probably the biggest fans bases for English clubs globally, there is nothing quite like Liverpool v Manchester United to set the pulse racing.
The latest instalment of the great rivalry takes place this weekend at what is sure to be a white-hot atmosphere in Anfield and both sets of fans will look forward to the game with a mixture of hope and anxiety.
A chance to get one over your great rivals and earn the bragging rights until the next game or the humiliation of defeat and the inevitable goading that will follow.
Fans of both clubs will probably tell you that they never enjoy these games because there is so much at stake. It’s not just the three points, it’s more than that. Historically, the two cities have been fierce rivals not just on a sporting front, but on a cultural and industrial front too.
Liverpool fans will tell you United are their greatest rivals, even more so than Everton and likewise, United fans will tell you Liverpool are greater rivals than City.
It’s a bit of a cliché, but the formbook usually goes out the window when these clubs meet. United have made a good start to the season and Liverpool have had a mixed one. This will have no bearing on the game on Saturday.
Both teams are capable of winning and Liverpool will be hoping their fans create the necessary hostility for the visitors which they usually tend to do.
Each team is missing key players, but the teams selected to do battle will be expected to unleash hell upon their opponents. No quarter asked or given. The battle lines are drawn, this is war.
Five Key Battles to look forward to:
David De Gea v Philippe Coutinho
Coutinho is back in the fold after his flirtation with Barcelona and is looking ominously good. As a United fan, when he receives the ball within 30 yards of our goal, I will clam up and fear what might happen next.
In De Gea, however, we have the number one keeper in the world. If anyone can stop Coutinho and his laser-like shots of precision and power, it’s the man from Spain.
Joel Matip v Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku has had an unbelievably good start to his United career, scoring freely and generally looking like a world class striker. Matip, more so than Loveren will be the man to put it up to the Belgian. If Matip can keep Lukaku quiet, Liverpool fans will be confident of a home win.
Jordan Henderson v Nemanja Matic
Chelsea fans are probably still baffled as to why they sold Matic to United. He’s been a huge plus for United this season and gives the backline the protection it needs. Henderson, as captain of Liverpool, will be expected to set the tone with his crunching tackles and box-to-box surges and whoever comes out on top of this particular battle will go a long way to deciding the victor.
Trent Alexander-Arnold v Marcus Rashford
Both huge prospects, both extremely talented. Alexander-Arnold has stepped into the Liverpool side in place of the injured Clyne and looks like a real prospect. He will be up against a player who Jose Mourinho adores.
Almost an ever-present, Rashford will give the young Liverpool defender a tough afternoon with his pace and footballing intelligence. Alexander-Arnold will need every ounce of his ability and probably the help of other Liverpool players to keep Rashford at bay.
Mohamed Salah v Blind/Darmian/Young
Mo Salah is a speed merchant. He is one of the vital cogs in Liverpool’s slick, fast-moving attacking threat. Whoever comes up against him on Saturday, be it Blind, Darmian or Young, they will need the support of Rashford on the left wing to curtail the influence of the lightning-quick Egyptian.