As Manchester United prepare to host Liverpool FC in a crunch tie at Old Trafford, we look at three things they need to be wary off to win the game and put an early dent in their rivals top four ambitions.
1 – Lack of unity
A game of this magnitude requires everyone, from manager to players to staff to pull in one direction. However, prior to the game, reports from the Times state that there may be some issues in the United dressing room if not a big revolt.
Seniors players are thought to be unhappy with the training methods of manager Louis van Gaal and confronted him on the issue. The players feel that the training makes them too tired and hence, they have less energy during the match days.
There are also reports that state the players are not happy with the treatment meted out to the former United right-back Rafael, who suggested the Dutch manager had an agenda against him because he was from Brazil.
However, the other way to look at it can be that feedback from your own players is a good thing for a manager. It shows they are willing to communicate what problems they have. Of course, one hopes the famous ego of Louis van Gaal takes it in the right manner.
It will be clear once the game begins how the players feel and even if there are some tensions, they should be put aside for the greater good of Manchester United Football Club.
2 – Christian Benteke
The powerful Liverpool forward can be a thorn in any defence. If you have the lean and short Daley Blind, a midfielder by trade, in your central defence alongside Chris Smalling, you need to be sure what you’re doing is right.
Sure, chances are more that Benteke will be marked by Smalling, but if he starts coming over to United’s left side, Smalling will either be dragged away from his position, leaving space for the Liverpool central midfielder or wide player to exploit it or Blind will have to go with Benteke. Either way, it is not the best of the situation and something which can open up the Manchester United defence that has looked pretty good so far in all the games they have played.
United and Louis van Gaal will have to come up with a plan to deal with the big Belgian if they are to beat Liverpool FC.
3 – Liverpool counter attack
Liverpool FC’s best performance this season came when they played Arsenal FC at the Emirates.
The first half saw Liverpool create some great chances, and if not for Petr Cech and the post, could have scored twice. The game clearly showed the game plan Liverpool would deploy against top sides away from home. Especially when they like to attack and keep the ball.
Liverpool may deploy either Danny Ings or Jordon Ibe for the suspended Coutinho. Both have the ability to punish United with their pace on the counter. Add the Brazilian Roberto Firmino alongside Benteke who might be used by the Merseyside outfit to pump the ball up to in order to counter attack quickly, you have a dangerous side.
United will have to be wary of Brendan Rodgers setting up his side to hurt United on the break, especially given that Luke Shaw and Memphis Depay, or both, will be attacking from United’s left flank. The gaps that can open up on the flank can be exploited by either Firmino or Jordon Ibe, whoever will be playing there.