Manchester United vs Liverpool is generally a clash between two of the Premier League’s elite teams. However, the trend has gone exceedingly towards the Reds recently.
Even though United show some signs of life in the odd game at Old Trafford, trips to Anfield have mainly been a recipe for a nightmare.
With that trip on the horizon again, here is the combined XI of the available players on both teams for this game. Is the gap really that big? Let’s find out!
Not even the most ardent United fan would debate this choice. Andre Onana hasn’t been as bad in the league as he was in Europe, but that’s not a high bar to clear. The Cameroonian is world-class only in glimpses, with mistakes being the norm.
The reverse is true for Alisson, who is arguably the best goalkeeper in the league at this point.
RB- Trent Alexander-Arnold
There’s a case to be made for a “horses for courses” selection here and picking Aaron Wan-Bissaka over the Liverpool right-back but that would be clutching at straws. Wan-Bissaka can’t even cement his place over Diogo Dalot so being picked over Alexander-Arnold would be a reach.
That is even more true now that the Liverpool man is basically redefining the role of a right-back by becoming their main playmaker as well. He’s a potential weak link in defence, which Ten Hag would undoubtedly target, but overall, he’s a better option than either United right-back.
CBs- Virgil Van Dijk and Raphael Varane
Varane’s selection might be questioned in some quarters but the reality is, his exclusion from the United team should have been a bigger question. The Frenchman, alongside Martinez, was the star of the defence last season and inexplicably became out-of-favour this year.
He has made a confident return to the team recently and is good value to be picked here over his countryman Ibrahima Konate.
Nobody is arguing for Lindelof/Evans over Van Dijk.
LB- Luke Shaw
It speaks volumes of Shaw’s talent that even if Liverpool’s first-choice, Andrew Robertson was available, Shaw remains a better option. He’s effectively United’s main ball-progressing threat and is finally making good on the vast potential he showed at Southampton.
Selecting arguably Premier League’s best left-back over Kostas Tsimikas is a no-brainer.
Midfielders- Wataru Endo, Dominik Szoboszlai, and Scott McTominay
United arguably shouldn’t have an entry here, with McTominay’s goal contributions under the scanner for the imbalance it causes in midfield.
However, the logic is that with a defensive midfielder behind him, and an energetic presence alongside, McTominay’s forward forays wouldn’t cause any gaps in behind.
United’s only available midfielders otherwise are Sofyan Amrabat (needs to show consistent form), and Kobbie Mainoo (not established yet), not counting Donny van de Beek who’ll leave in January.
Forwards- Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, and Alejandro Garnacho
Salah and Nunez are obvious selections, especially over Antony and Hojlund. Nunez has four goals and five assists in just nine starts in the league while Hojlund is yet to score in the league.
For the left-wing spot, it’s a shootout between Luis Diaz/Cody Gakpo and Garnacho. The latter takes the cake for his recent form and directness which would combine well with the goalscoring of Salah and work-rate of Nunez.
So United ended up getting four players in the combined XI, and that’s after a tactical inclusion for McTominay. It speaks volumes about where these teams are in their respective cycles and why it would be a huge result for United if they manage to earn a point or three tomorrow.
7-4 it is here and after seeing the 7-0 scoreline last season, the number doesn’t bring happy memories.