Whilst the Manchester derby continues to grow in stature, and fixtures with Leeds United always make for hostile meetings after years of fierce and often violent rivalry, there’s one game that Manchester United fans want to win above all others, regardless of the context. Monday night’s meeting at Anfield with Liverpool is sure to be a hotly-contested and intense affair, given the depth of hatred that both sets of fans reserve for each other, and the rivalry between the clubs has never really dimmed, despite the fact that the two North West-based giants have struggled to compete in the Premier League in the last two years.
Yet that will be of little consequence come kick-off tonight. United may have won on their last two league visits to Anfield, but Jurgen Klopp’s side are a far better unit than the one that lost four successive league games over the last two seasons, and their defeat of Louis van Gaal’s side in the last-16 of the Europa League last March confirmed that. If you believe bookmakers, Liverpool are odds on to win this clash but I fancy our chances.. It’ll be fascinating to see how Jose Mourinho sets out his team tonight, with Manchester City’s draw with Everton on Saturday giving United an opportunity to close the gap with the league leaders. With that in mind, here’s how we think the Portuguese should set his team out:
It’s a more defensively minded XI than we’ve seen from Mourinho so far this season. In the 1-2 defeat to City at Old Trafford, United were far too open and slack, with the former Chelsea manager likely to be far more conservative in his approach against Liverpool in an effort to combat the home side’s pressing.
David De Gea starts in goal, of course, with Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly the best duo to start in central defence. Daley Blind has impressed at left back in recent weeks, but with Luke Shaw available, the Dutchman should be sacrificed for Shaw’s superior pace, which could be an asset on the break. Antonio Valencia will almost certainly start at right back.
This might be the best game to drop Michael Carrick back into the starting XI, with United not expected to dominate possession and requiring more presence in midfield to help protect the defence. The combination of Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera ahead of him should help to get the ball moving quickly, too.
Ahead of them is a mixture of the pace, skill and trickery of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who will act as United’s best outlets when they attempt to counter-attack. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is easily United’s best option to hold up possession up front when they’re in control of the ball, and will hopefully put his years of big-game experience to good use.
What do you think of our XI? Do you agree, or disagree? Let us know in the comments below!