International breaks are hard to deal with for football fans, especially when there are games like these waiting on the other side. With Manchester United traveling to Anfield to face Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool, all the eyes are now on Jose Mourinho. Not only because it is another of the high-profile clash, but also because of the result that his team churned out in their last game. It was by no means a poor performance but the players let themselves down with their finishing and hence had to lose two points rather than gaining one.
The team which was put out in the last game was probably the strongest, given availability and form and one can expect a lot of those players to be retained in the starting XI again this week. However, the absentees from the last game are now up for selection. But given how Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s return from injury, in a big game, went last time, it might be a good idea to have him eased back in to the team rather than throwing him right into the mix. Same might be applicable to Luke Shaw.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1)
The formation would more likely be similar, a 4-2-3-1, which eventually transitions in to a more 4-3-3, with Juan Mata dropping a little deeper to get and rotate the ball and Paul Pogba pressing forward.
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
The Spaniard was partly at fault for giving away the equalizing goal in the last game, where he failed to grab on to, what was a pretty straight forward shot. He would be looking to give his best as such a mistake in this game would be brutal for the team.
Back Four – Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind
With United only playing on Monday, Valencia will, hopefully, be back in time from international duties to be fit to start. In spite of Shaw being up for selection, given Blind’s performances and the fact that Shaw is coming back from an injury, he might be brought in later in the game, obviously if the game demands that kind of substitution, instead of starting. The central defensive partnership hasn’t been as solid as it has been in the past season but given the change in the system, it might take a little time to settle in. In spite of that, Bailly has been a revelation for United and the team will hope that he continues to do so.
Central Midfielders – Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba
There are no points for guessing which two players form a perfect partnership in the middle. There was a case for Michael Carrick, but Herrera has surely made a better one. His intensity and energy is infectious and rubs on others. Also, he has a good understanding with Juan Mata, who should be starting as a number 10 ahead of Wayne Rooney. Pogba, on the other hand, could have easily had a hat trick last game but poor finishing let him and the team down. He would be looking to right the wrongs from the last game.
Wingers – Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
The Frenchman who struggled for form in the season so far showed glimpses of what he is capable of in the game against Stoke City. His goal, especially the finish was reminiscent of the goal against the same team in the last season. A return to the starting XI would do his confidence a world of good. The other flank might be occupied by another of the teen wonder of Manchester, Marcus Rashford. He has been consistently putting in performances and efforts which have not gone unnoticed. In spite of being perceived as an off the bench impact substitution, some superior performances have led the manager to change his opinion and start the youngster more often. He, too, hasn’t let the manager down and has already scored some crucial goals for the team. It would be difficult to drop the youngster considering the form that he is in right now.
Number 10 – Juan Mata
Mata was brought in to replace Rooney for the Leicester game and boy did that make a difference. There was much better movement and a lot more chances created. Even in the Stoke game, the chances were coming in from all directions, it were just not put to bed. IN spite of always being substituted, he remains one of the crucial players for the team right now. Also, his affinity towards performing at Anfield, which has been affectionately renamed as Juanfield by the fans, makes his case for being a starter, even stronger.
Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The big Swedish hero had a quiet last couple of games, by his standards and he will be eager to go out there and change those statistics. Of course, Ibrahimovic means much more than just goals, but having him scoring makes things a lot easier for others.
City made things easy for United when they got beaten by Tottenham Hotspur, keeping the points difference to the top in check. That is basically one of the biggest reasons why United cannot afford to drop any points at this point in the season. Dropping points here would mean the difference to the top would already be too much to overcome. As it is so famously said, one cannot win the league in October, but can surely lose it in October. Losing is never an option for United but with games like these, especially the ones against Liverpool, it is even more difficult to accept.