Manchester United welcome Liverpool to Old Trafford on Sunday looking to extend their winning run to ten in all competitions.
Despite their strong form in recent weeks, José Mourinho’s side have still found it difficult to break into the top four – but a win against their fiercest rivals would go some way towards Man United potentially clawing their way back into the title race.
Liverpool, for their part, have encountered something of a blip. Following their 1-0 win against Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, Jurgen Klopp’s men have failed to win any of their last three games in all competitions and a win, avoiding defeat at least, is essential for keeping some distance between themselves and Man United.
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
Firstly, it’s important to clarify that 99.99% of people (with the other .01% being Mignolet’s family and friends) would have David De Gea in their eleven, but the Belgian’s ratings for this season are higher than his Spanish counterpart (6.72 to De Gea’s 6.50. Loris Karius, incidentally, is on 6.33)
A big reason for this could be down to Man United’s generally better defence this season – De Gea hasn’t been as good as the past two campaigns simply because he has not been required to be. That being said, Mignolet’s reintroduction to the Liverpool first team has had them looking a lot better at the back in recent games than they had been with Karius.
Right-Back: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
Centre-Back: Phil Jones (Manchester United)
Centre-Back: Joel Matip (Liverpool)
Left-Back: Daley Blind (Manchester United)
While Nathaniel Clyne (6.85) has been Liverpool’s Mr. Dependable, Valencia (7.23) has taken that position at Old Trafford and made it his own. The Ecuadorian international is a genuine threat down the right flank for Man United and has introduced a defensive solidity to his game that just wasn’t there under Louis van Gaal.
In the centre, Phil Jones (7.25) has shown up a lot of people this season – including his own manager. The England international looked like becoming surplus to requirements at Old Trafford but since coming into the team he has been rock solid defensively.
Marcos Rojo (7.19), meanwhile, has also improved this season having become something of a scapegoat for Man United fans (though those reckless tackles need to be cut out). Indeed, on Whoscored he scored slightly higher than Joel Matip (7.16) and Dejan Lovren (7.15), but the Squawka metric’s average rating (36 to Lovren’s 27 and Rojo’s 23) was much more heavily in favour of Liverpool’s Cameroonian centre-half who, it must me remembered, cost the side absolutely nothing in the summer.
On the left. while James Milner (7.36) has been a revelation in Liverpool’s backline this year, Blind’s (7.38) rating is just that bit higher, with a further gap on Squawka. The Dutch international has played at but full-back and in the centre for Man United this season, and while the stats do show that Milner has been more of an attacking threat, Blind’s defensive performances have but Blind on top.
Defensive Midfielder: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Centre Midfield: Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Ander Herrera (Manchester United)
It’s no coincidence that Liverpool’s downturn in form has come during a period of absence for Henderson (7.42). The captain’s high energy displays and ability to move the ball forward at speed are things which have been sorely lacking in his ponderous replacement Emre Can.
Pogba (7.85) has finally started taking command of the Man United midfield in the manner befitting the world’s most expensive player. His link-up play with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in particular is tremendous and his overall work-rate is exemplary.
Next to Pogba, Herrera 7.35) continues to be a quiet hero in the Man United starting eleven. The Spanish international isn’t quite defensive or offensive but manages to combine the two effectively, and just edged out in-form Adam Lallana (7.27) in this eleven.
Right Wing: Sadio Mané (Liverpool)
Left Wing: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United)
Liverpool’s title challenge this season has been built on an unpredictable multi-pronged attack, and to that end, their entire front three have also been rated highly by Whoscored. Top of that list is Philippe Coutinho (7.85), whose return from injury is coming at just the right time for a Reds side that have started to look a bit sluggish and have just lost Sadio Mané temporarily to the African Cup of Nations.
Speaking of Mané (7.57), the Senegalese international has been one of the signings of the season, injecting a healthy dose of pace into Klopp’s side. Despite the return of Coutinho, Mané will be a big loss during his absence.
Up front, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s recent form has been red hot. Were this eleven to be made two months ago, Roberto Firmino’s name would have appeared here instead of the Swede’s, but twelve goals in his last twelves games have transformed both his and Man United’s season. The calls to have him dropped erlier in the season (and there were many, despite the revisionism since) have well and truly died down.
Read More About: adam lallana, ander herrera, Antonio Valencia, daley blind, david de gea, james milner, joel matip, jordan henderson, Liverpool, loris karis, Man United, nathaniel clyne, Paul Pogba, phil jones, philippe coutinho, Premier League, Roberto Firmino, sadio mane, simon mignolet, zlatan ibrahimovic