09 Mar Manchester United v Liverpool – talking points
Manchester United and Liverpool renew their rivalry at Old Trafford on Saturday, with Jurgen Klopp’s side hoping to claim the victory that would see them move second.
Here, Press Association Sport details what to look out for in the lunchtime fixture.
Mourinho’s tactical approach
The last meeting between these two at Anfield in October ended in a drab goalless draw, after which Klopp suggested United’s risk-averse style would not be accepted at Liverpool. United had scored 32 times in their previous 10 games but mustered just one attempt on target in a second successive Anfield stalemate that left Jose Mourinho’s tactics questioned. The onus will be on United to play with more attacking intent at Old Trafford, but to what degree? Liverpool’s strength is their speed in attack and Mourinho will not want to leave his team exposed to those forwards on the counter.
Mourinho copped flak for the Anfield display because United’s attack had previously looked so potent while Liverpool’s defence had appeared vulnerable. Heading into this contest, the Reds’ backline might have found some steel as Klopp’s men have conceded only once in their previous five fixtures. Goalkeeper Loris Karius is showing consistency between the sticks, Virgil van Dijk has become the commanding presence Klopp hoped he would when he was acquired mid-season and Andrew Robertson has quickly established himself as a fans’ favourite in the left-back slot. The argument will be they have not been tested by a potent forward line since conceding twice to Tottenham at the start of February.
Klopp’s top-six record in the Premier League
Klopp’s side have an excellent record against fellow top-six clubs in the Premier League since the German arrived in October 2015. He has suffered just three top-flight defeats to those opponents and has secured victories at the Etihad Stadium, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates. Three points at Old Trafford would be considered the sweetest of the lot for Liverpool fans.
McTominay, Mata and United’s midfield options
As was the case against Sevilla and Chelsea, this would seem like the perfect fixture for Mourinho to deploy his emerging midfield destroyer Scott McTominay. However, McTominay was substituted at half-time in a disappointing 45-minute outing at Crystal Palace on Monday. Moreover, Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata impressed off the bench in the come-from-behind victory to stake their claims for inclusion. Would Mourinho switch from his recent 4-3-3 and include Mata or Jesse Lingard as a number 10, and entrust Paul Pogba with greater defensive responsibilities, knowing his team have looked more exposed when his record signing has done so?
Alexis Sanchez’s struggles
The scrutiny on Pogba in recent weeks has detracted from how disappointing January’s marquee signing Sanchez has been. The Chilean has scored just once in eight appearances, has frequently given the ball away and has not yet gelled with his new colleagues. Sanchez has largely operated wide on the left but he still struggled after moving to a more central role for the second half at Palace. Mourinho is unlikely to drop the 29-year-old – he persisted with Romelu Lukaku during a lean spell earlier in the season – so he needs to find a solution for how Sanchez fits in.