Saturday 12th September – 17:30 – Old Trafford
After heavy spending from both sides, Manchester United and Liverpool’s new look squads will face off at Old Trafford in one of this country’s biggest rivalries. They are the two most successful British clubs with 38 league titles between them which fuels the hatred between the two sets of fans. They are neck and neck with each other with four games played, but the Red Devils are ahead on goal difference. Both sides lost last time out though, with United being defeated 2-1 at Swansea, and the Reds suffering a 3-0 home loss to West Ham. That puts even more on the line in this game as Louis van Gaal and Brendan Rodgers look to turn their fortunes around ahead of midweek European fixtures.
Manchester United -5th
- Louis van Gaal says he is yet to decide whether he will recall David De Gea after the goalkeeper signed a new contract.
- New £36 million signing Anthony Martial could be involved, while midfielder Michael Carrick has overcome a calf injury.
- Phil Jones (leg) remains out, whilst Wayne Rooney has emerged as a late fitness doubt with a hamstring problem.
- Philippe Coutinho is suspended for the trip to Old Trafford, with Jordon Ibe or Danny Ings in contention to replace the Brazilian.
- Midfielders Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana remain doubtful with foot and thigh injuries respectively.
- Daniel Sturridge has returned to full training this week but is unlikely to feature, having not played since April after a hip operation.
The Key Battle: Daley Blind vs Christian Benteke
Daley Blind recently insisted he is “clever enough and smart enough” to play at centre-back despite his diminutive stature. He impressed as United kept four clean sheets in their first five games of the season, but the Dutchman’s shortcomings were exposed against the physicality of Bafetimbi Gomis and Andre Ayew in their 2-1 defeat at Swansea.
Used mostly as either a left-back or holding midfielder in the last campaign, Louis van Gaal decided to use Blind in the centre of defence after failing to sign Sergio Ramos and Nicolas Otamendi. He is yet to do enough to convince me that it is a position he is comfortable in.
The hulking figure of Christian Benteke presents an even tougher test. The Belgian has won more aerial duels than any other player in the Premier League this season (41) and will do his utmost to target Blind, who has only won eight in the same number of appearances.
Benteke has scored just once signing for the Reds for £32.5 million in the summer (and even that one shouldn’t have counted), so he will be eager to get on the scoresheet against a side that netted twice against in 2014-15.
Manchester United wins = 70 / Liverpool wins = 60 / Draws = 45
*According to www.lfconline.com
Last Meeting: Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United (22nd March 2015)
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was sent off 38 seconds after coming on as a half-time substitute as Manchester United retained their grip on a top-four place with a vital win at Anfield. Gerrard was introduced for Adam Lallana at the start of the second half with United deservedly leading through Juan Mata’s early goal – but was gone almost as quickly after following up a thunderous tackle on the goalscorer with a reckless reaction to a challenge with a clear stamp on Ander Herrera. Mata emphasised the folly of Gerrard’s red card when he added a second with a sensational volley just before the hour to confirm United’s superiority in a game. Daniel Sturridge pulled a goal back to give Liverpool hope of an unlikely comeback but the visitors were never seriously threatened again and could even afford the luxury of Wayne Rooney seeing an injury-time penalty saved by Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet. [BBC]
Louis van Gaal: [On Anthony Martial] “I imagine the fans think ‘£50 million, he has to score.’ No, he is 19 and he has to adapt. He must adapt to our culture and philosophy and that is difficult enough.”
Brendan Rodgers: “United is a huge club and will always be under scrutiny. The intensity of this fixture is still there. The players will feel it. This is the biggest derby game in the history of this league. Winning a game like this can give you psychological boost.”
The Referee – Michael Oliver
In 2010, Michael Oliver became the youngest-ever referee to take charge of a Premier League game and has gone on to officiate over 100 top flight matches. Last season, he took charge of 39 games in all competitions, handing out 137 yellow cards and six red. So far in this campaign, he is already half way to that red card tally after sending off Thibaut Courtois and both Ibrahim Afellay and Charlie Adam in his last match refereeing Stoke vs West Brom. Oliver has also given one penalty and handed out 20 yellow cards in 2015-16, including five when Liverpool visited Arsenal last month.
Stat of the Match
This Premier League fixture has produced 16 red cards. Only Everton v Liverpool (20) has seen more.
Where can I watch it?
The match is being shown live on Sky Sports 1 from 5pm, with kick-off half an hour later. The highlights will then be shown on BBC One’s Match of the Day, which is on at 10:50pm.
My Prediction: Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool
I’m predicting a high scoring game between these two sides and expect many of the summer signings to make a big impact. In fact, in a 2-2 draw, I think United’s new boys Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial will score as well as Liverpool’s new number nine Christian Benteke, who I think will get a brace.