In one of the fiercest traditional rivalries, Manchester United and Liverpool will cross swords at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Monday evening.
Erik ten Hag will be desperate to claim the first win of his tenure as Manchester United boss after losing back-to-back games against Brighton and Brentford. He has suffered a shambolic start to life in English football, and Liverpool could pile further misery for the Dutchman.
Liverpool, however, have themselves not enjoyed an ideal start to the new season, drawing their opening two games with Fulham and Crystal Palace. With that being said picking a combined XI may be a bit tricky. A 4-3-3 formation has been considered.
David de Gea was culpable for Man United’s first goal in the 4-0 defeat to Brentford, and overall, hasn’t looked like a goalkeeper cut out for Ten Hag’s system. In the two games he has played, the Spaniard has conceded six goals and will head into this feisty fixture shorn of confidence.
Alisson, meanwhile, has been arguably the best goalkeeper in the Premier League in the last few years, helping them to a Premier League and Champions League title. The Brazilian international’s consistency, calmness, sweeping abilities and leadership skills outshine De Gea, making him an easy pick in goal in our combined XI.
As far as the full-backs are concerned, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are miles ahead of Man United’s first-choice pair of Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw in terms of quality. So, the selections of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson in defence remain unquestionable.
Liverpool have a few injuries to contend with in central defence, with Jurgen Klopp missing players like Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate. Virgil van Dijk hasn’t enjoyed a great start to the new season, yet, he remains one of the best in the business and walks into the combined XI.
Man United have their own share of problems at the back, which has shipped six goals in two games. Summer signing Lisandro Martinez has struggled to cope with the intensity and physicality of the Premier League so far, while Harry Maguire is yet to show signs of hitting top form. In addition, Victor Lindelof is injured, so that could see Ten Hag hand Raphael Varane his first start of the season against Liverpool.
Apart from his impeccable reading of the game, pace and aerial ability, Varane’s leadership skills and experience would make him the perfect partner for Van Dijk in the mixed XI.
As Casemiro’s move from Real Madrid to Man United is yet to be fully completed, Fabinho becomes a bonafide starter in the No.6 role. He will as usual be tasked with protecting the back four by breaking the opposition’s play and initiating attacks.
As Thiago Alcantara, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones are all out injured, Klopp will have Naby Keita, James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Harvey Elliot to select from for the remaining two spots in his midfield.
On the other hand, Ten Hag has all his midfield options available, but with Fred and Scott McTominay’s inability to control games evident from the last few years, Donny Van de Beek yet to cement his place in the team and James Garner waiting for his opportunities patiently, there’s every chance of Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen starting against Liverpool.
Eriksen has been United’s best player in the first two games, so no-brainer this one really. Fernandes has lost his spark in the last 9-12 months, which in turn saw his numbers drop down significantly last season. But one cannot keep a high-risk high reward player like him out of the picture, which allows us to go with a midfield three of Fabinho, Eriksen and Fernandes.
In attack, Mohamed Salah is an easy pick on the right flank because of his sheer class. Off the left, Luis Diaz makes the cut ahead of Man United’s Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho. Diaz brought the house down at Anfield with his stunning strike that levelled the Reds with Crystal Palace after they had gone a man down, thereby, demonstrating his perseverance, flair and shooting prowess.
Regarded by many as the greatest ever to grace the game, Cristiano Ronaldo will be highly motivated to deliver the goods after being a part of Man United’s embarrassing 5-0 defeat to Liverpool at home last season. You cannot look past him, can you?
I am Rohan Sengupta from one of the busiest cities in India, Mumbai. A Journalism graduate with a keen interest in sports, football is something I simply cannot live without and writing, discussing and analyzing the game is what I do 24*7.