Manchester United v Liverpool (Five Potential Tactical Talking Points)

Manchester United versus Liverpool is arguably the most intense rivalry in English football. On Sunday, 15th of January 2017, these two teams will battle it out again. Klopp’s side currently sit second on the league table, just five points behind early favourites Chelsea. Jose’s men on the other hand are coming into this game after winning their last nine games in all competitions. As at the time these two met earlier in the season Manchester United were happy to leave with a point, because the team was unsettled, still adapting and lacked confidence. This is no longer the case; Jose’s men are looking very confident and they do a very good job at imposing themselves on games.

carr v neville

Manchester United has started to take full control of matches especially when playing at Old Trafford. It is reasonable to assume that no other team in the premier league controls a game the way United does. Liverpool on the other hand will miss Sadio Mane to a very great extent and his ability to find a way through any defensive setup. Liverpool’s defense has never been convincing, Manchester United’s attack has showed so much potential even when the team struggled to win matches. Jose, the team, and the supporters want to make a real statement. They want to send out a warning to every club out there, every manager out there, and to the entire premier league community that Manchester United is back where it belongs. It will be an intense battle between both sides with my outlook on the match focused on Five potential tactical talking points:

Liverpool’s Pressing Game

Jurgen Klopp has always set up his sides to press opponents all over the pack with great intensity; however we have seen Liverpool withdrawn this approach in some games for a more cautious but fast paced approached that has instead made teams a lot bolder to stick it to Liverpool; case in question was the game away to Bournemouth; where after an impressive and commanding start at the Vitality Stadium; a withdrawn Liverpool were confronted by a dose of their own medicine. Bournemouth pressed with great efficiency and precision that unsettled the entire Liverpool back line to uncharacteristic mistakes. Liverpool’s approach going into the game against United would depend largely on a few high points from the first game at Anfield; where the Reds dominated for large periods but lacked the necessary penetration due to United’s organization and consistent closing down.

Klopp’s Reds struggle against team that stick it to them; once a team is able to dish out the same dose of medicine to the Reds. Liverpool find it hard to break down teams who adopt a similar approach, centered at pressing and ensuring that spaces between the lines are well cut off with a robust midfield approach.

The Midfield 3 v 3

Injuries permitting; Liverpool should line up with Can, Henderson and Wijnaldum in midfield against a United trio of Pogba, Herrera and Carrick; the battle here is integral to the overall outcome of the game. United seem to be the ones who have had greater joy from its midfield three; Carrick providing the screen, Herrera doing the dirty work and Pogba with a free role; the trio are playing with greater comfort and freedom; built great understanding whilst it is has a proper balance of youth and experience.


Liverpool’s Trio have struggled with injuries and loss of form of late; this has affected Liverpool’s general play. For the first time since February 2016; the Reds have failed  to score in successive matches; very unlike Liverpool. The Creativity in midfield has somewhat been stifled and tentative; a lot will depend on the work of Wijnaldum and his ability to make those late runs into the box. Which ever midfield trio comes out tops wins the game

The Defensive Set Up

In the First game at Anfield; United set up playing very deep with two banks of four; I expect this to change a little, although Liverpool’s defeat to Southampton may give Jose Mourinho ideas to remain cautious and seek to catch Liverpool on the break as the Liverpool back line have struggled against pacey teams of late.

I expect Liverpool to press United up top with a high line expected to squeeze the life out of United’s fluid midfield trio; this reduces the spaces available for them to express themselves and take control of the game; this they will expect to put United’s defense under immense pressure; its a game of very fine margins.

The Carrick Question

Micheal Carrick continues to demonstrate that Old wine gets better with Age; for many his role in the Manchester United Squad would be bit part and not as integral as it is today. The former West Ham trainee has shown maturity in adjusting to changes within the team and adapted to them with grace.


Since is full inclusion into the Manchester United midfield; the Red Devils have been undefeated, more penetrative and have played some really imaginative football. A number of United fans expected the now departed Morgan Schneiderlin to fill this role; but Carrick’s superior interpretation, screening of the back four and consistent forward thinking has set him apart and made him invaluable.

The rest from first team action in the EFL Cup would have done him a whole world of good; I expect another commanding performance from him on Sunday.

The False 9 vs The Number 9

It goes without saying that Liverpool especially in the big games have been more comfortable deploying a False 9 up front as against having a proper Number 9; this is more or less as a result of the injuries to the strikers on their roaster as well as a supposed lack of confidence in them by Jurgen Klopp. The Reds have used more of a front trio of Firmino, Mane and Coutinho with Lallana able to deputize for any of the front three who has had a bad day.

Zlatan header

Daniel Sturridge and Divork Origi have not covered themselves in much glory leading the line for Liverpool if you compare them with the man leading United’s attack in Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has scored 13 goals in the Premier League and boast of the most shots on goal in the Premier League. You could argue that Liverpool’s game is more based on the overall team collective and not built around one individual; hence you get more squad members chipping in with goals.


**Images courtesy getty images, Liverpool echo,

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