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How a 4-2-2-2 formation could look for Manchester United against Liverpool on Saturday afternoon

Manchester United will battle Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon in the 200th competitive match between the two clubs in all competitions. It will also be the 52nd time the two clubs have faced each other in the Premier League alone. United have won 79 of the matches, Liverpool winning 65 with 55 draws rounding up the 199 matches played thus far. United really need to beat Liverpool this season – the last four matches have all been drawn and United need to put a bigger cushion between them and third-placed Liverpool. United are nine points clear of reigning Premier League champions Chelsea, who sit in fifth place in the league at this stage of the season.

The formation United have used has changes many times this season with the 4-2-3-1 formation predominantly the main one Jose Mourinho picks with the 4-3-3 formation utilised in the last few matches, including the 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace on Monday evening, in which the formation was changed which helped United to victory, albeit late in the game thanks to Nemanja Matic’s stunning winner. Romelu Lukaku is one goal away from 100 Premier League goals, having scored in each of the last four matches at the Theatre of Dreams. Here I look into a new formation, one which could be key to Manchester United beating Liverpool and going into the last eight matches of the season in good stead with a five-point cushion in second place.

Starting XI Formation Prediction: 4-2-2-2 could be the formation to spark some lively activity in Manchester United’s midfield and attack

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Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is in the best of form this season for Manchester United. During the first three season’s post-Sir Alex Ferguson, De Gea was the clubs Player of the Year as voted by the supporters of the club. The Spanish international became the first goalkeeper to win the award at the end of the 2013/14 season, then the first player to win a trio of awards in the 2015/16 season – winning the award three times in three consecutive seasons. During the David Moyes season, De Gea had an average of 2.68 saves per match in the Premier League – this season it stands at 3.3, showing he is seeing more shots coming in – saving more than he ever has before. Statistics show that De Gea has saved an average of 13.56 goals in the Premier League this season – the clubs stand out player.

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Back Four: Antonio Valencia, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw

Manchester United’s defence is not as strong as it could and should be but with three first team players on the sidelines through injury, it was never going to be as strong as it should be. Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind are all still out of action with just Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, and Chris Smalling available for selection in the centre-back position. Lindelof has been criticised by many ‘know it all’s’ this season, the type of supporter who does not give any player a chance because they have been overhyped, so, that means the guy is a flop. He’s not a flop, not yet anyway. He’s faced four starts in a row and despite not showing he’s the best defender in the world, he has done a lot of things right. But the fans know best, right? Bailly has been fit for weeks, yet has not played many minutes.

Many wanted to see the partnership of Lindelof and Bailly in the summer, now we could see that. Those who were criticising Smalling weeks ago seem to have turned in the Swede instead. On the flanks, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw are the best the club has to offer right now. Shaw has been lauded as the best left-back at the club and the manager has confirmed that he will be offered a new contract – yet Ashley Young continued to be selected ahead of him. When Shaw came on against Crystal Palace, he was better than Young after a few minutes and showed why he needs to start regularly. In the future, Timothy Fosu-Mensah could find himself in the right-back position with United and Mourinho needing to find a replacement for the Ecuadorian.

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Midfield: Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba

Manchester United’s midfield has been boosted with the return of Marouane Fellaini, who has knee surgery recently after becoming injured in the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at the end of January. With Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, and Michael Carrick the only fit midfielders, only McTominay not being fully experienced, it will be good to see Fellaini back to help his team when it counts. Ander Herrera remains the only midfielder still on the sidelines. Matic scored that stunning winning goal on Monday evening, so him starting against Liverpool will be necessary, along with Pogba, who may have to play a different game to help get one over the Merseysiders.

In a 4-2-2-2 formation, this may leave United’s midfield a little bare, but it is something that happens when the 4-2-3-1 formation is utilised. This gives United’s attacking power the benefit with all-out attack the best option to beat Liverpool, as with their defence and the fact they have leaked 32 goals this season, ten more than United, shows that attacking is the best form of defence for them – outscore the opposition. United will need to do the same, despite having a defence deemed capable of keeping the goals out, more than Liverpool anyway. Only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals than United this season, leaking 20 of them.

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Wide Players: Anthony Martial, Juan Mata

Anthony Martial, who was missing from the Crystal Palace victory on Monday evening, if fit, will have a big role to play for Manchester United against Liverpool. Playing in his favoured position on the left could be key for him to do his stuff and help United get the better of Liverpool. If Martial scores against Liverpool, he will cost United yet more money after a clause in his contract will have been met. That means he has been doing well at his new club and Monaco knew the type of player they were selling, proving they knew just how good he was going to be. United don’t usually use the width to dominate which is something Liverpool will do.

Juan Mata, although he’s not really a winger, should play on the right. Alexis Sanchez does not fit this role and no other player has adapted in this role – meaning that it is a position Jose Mourinho needs to sort out in the summer with a new arrival coming in to fill this void. Playing Mata here will be of benefit, his vision, passing ability and his ability to make space and get into those spaces could be key. He could also move into the central areas a little more with Antonio Valencia overlapping him and making up for the ineffectiveness on the flank that he has as Valencia can keep the ball, get forward are offer something in terms of goals and assists from his right-back position – something he has done on a few occasions already this season.

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Forwards: Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez

Manchester United have seldom played with two strikers for a long time now. Having Romelu Lukaku is great, especially as he is a goal away from a milestone in his Premier League career and if that could come in the 200th competitive match against Liverpool and at Old Trafford, a stadium he has scored in his last four appearances could be great for United. With Marcus Rashford still to start a game recently, after his injury spell, the 20-year-old could be an option to partner Lukaku but Alexis Sanchez could be given the chance to prove himself after a string of poor performances recently. Sanchez is a player United could be great with as he takes a gamble and that is something that needs to be done in football. His inability to keep the ball is a problem.

Playing in a 4-2-2-2 formation mat or may not work against Liverpool. It may or may not be the problem-solving factor to make or break Manchester United’s season, but if nothing is tried, nothing is ventured. The 4-3-3 formation is a great formation for Paul Pogba, but it needs to fit with all of the other players on the pitch. If it doesn’t, a formation that works with the majority of the players is what is needed. There has been a lot said about this spat between Pogba and Mourinho, lots of lies, lots of mistruth and lots of speculation. Pogba will know that he has to do what his manager thinks is best.

The media could do wonders by learning that too. Since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, the media seem to think they are the decision makers when in actual fact, they are just the bullshit makers.

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