Manchester United face Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday in what is one of the fixtures in the football calendar. The match requires little introduction – one of the games I look for when Man United’s fixtures are released for the new season (Manchester City being the first then Liverpool).
What should we expect from Liverpool? Under Roy Hodgson we should expect less animosity between the two managers, well perhaps not for 90 minutes. The Liverpool team we face today will be quite different than the previous meeting between the two sides – during the summer they were very active in the transfer market bringing in several players including Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic, Raul Meireles, Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen.
After Saturday’s results Liverpool enter the day in 17th position having amassed five points in four games – their sole victory coming against newly promoted West Bromwich Albion. Last weekend against Birmingham City, Liverpool apparently looked devoid of ideas with Fernando Torres receiving negative comments for his performance, or lack of it. We all know his record against United so to dismiss his threat would be foolish, I’m sure Nemanja Vidic isn’t! Personally, I envisage a huge performance from the big Serbian.
On Thursday, against Steaua Bucharest (in the Europa League) Hodgson rested several players – Liverpool will be fresh and ready for the fight. Both clubs have had disappointing starts to the season, but there is nothing like this fixture to raise spirits of players and fans alike.
How will United line up?
The main two discussion points in back five are right back and central defence.
John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Rafael are vying for the right back spot or does Gary Neville fancy a turn against the old foe. Sunday could turn into a battle of a match and as a consequence I’d rather have Brown by my side – “Big Bad” is not going to shirk any 50/50 challenges. What do you think?
Should Rio Ferdinand start? To be honest, I’m really undecided on this point – I can see the merits and disadvantages of his inclusion. The game against Glasgow Rangers is no real barometer to judge his fitness (the fact he completed 90 minutes is positive) or readiness as he was seldom tested. At Anfield last season he appeared less than 100% fit and was brushed aside by Fernando Torres to score Liverpool’s first goal – for some reason that incident is sticking in my mind… Then there is of course Jonny Evans.
With the absence of Ferdinand there was a suggestion Evans may steel a march on the England captain, that once fit Ferdinand may struggle to reclaim his place in the team. However, this has not been the case as the Northern Ireland International has received plenty of criticism for his performances this season, notably against Fulham and Everton. For ninety minutes against Everton he and Nemanja Vidic were rocks in the centre of defence, throwing themselves into challenges, blocking efforts on goal and in the main won the aerial battle. He played well, much better than his performance against Fulham, where he probably deserved criticism. Evans has proved himself to be a good defender, one of real potential – he’s held his own against the likes of Drogba, but oddly struggled against Bobby Zamora. He’s had one poor performance this against Fulham in my opinion.
In such a big game is Sir Alex prepared to risk an undercooked Ferdinand? Or perhaps a low in confidence and feeling the pressure Evans? I really don’t know, what do you think?
With the horrific injury Antonio Valencia suffered against Glasgow Rangers, Nani will start in his preferred right wing role. The left wing position however brings a further discussion point. The options: Ji Sung Park, Ryan Giggs or Gabriel Obertan. Park offers the defensive option, perhaps doing a job on Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole by tucking inside. Obertan recently returned to action for the reserves so is an unlikely starter, perhaps a place on the subs bench is on the offing for the French man and there is my personal preference Giggs as he offers the greater attacking option, which was lacking at home to Rangers. What do you think?
After recent comments and praise from Sir Alex, Dimitar Berbatov is a certainty to start on Sunday. With his selection we are likely to start the game in a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 formation, which is an unusual step compared to last season where 4-5-1/4-3-3 was preferred in the so called bigger games. If needed the formation could switch with Rooney playing as a wide forward on the left. We saw against Everton that Berbatov is capable of playing the lone striker role.
My preferred team: Van der Sar; Brown, Vidc, Evans, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs; Berbatov, Rooney
Prediction: With constant heavy rain during the early hours of Sunday morning the surface will allow for quick slick passing. I’m expecting both teams to play at 100mph whether in defence or attack. I’m going to plumb for a 2-0 United victory with goals from Berbatov and Rooney. What do you think?
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