After playing the cagiest 0-0 draw a week ago, Manchester United & Liverpool are looking to redeem themselves as they meet again in the 4th Round of the FA Cup. While not as prominent as their Premier League game, there’s still silverware on the line here – which should guarantee a more open-ended, entertaining clash.
United are yet to defeat a top English side this season. They aim to break that streak against their rivals, who are still rattled after the home defeat to Burnley. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will shake things up keeping his side’s PL title dreams in mind, but should unleash a potent enough side to light up Old Trafford and pound more misery on Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Manchester United Likely XI
Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles, McTominay, Fred, Van de Beek, Mata, Rashford, Martial
Victor Lindelof missed United’s game against Fulham due to injury, but should be back for the game. Expect OGS to go with a more attack-minded line-up this time.
Liverpool Likely XI
Kelleher, Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Matip, Robertson, Fabinho, Jones, Thiago, Salah, Mane, Firmino
LFC are still without the likes of Virgil Van Dijk & Diogo Jota, both long-term injuries. Naby Keita’s a doubt as well. Jordan Henderson also got injured recently, so he could miss this too.
Manchester United vs Liverpool Preview
The last time these two met, both their respective attacks had absolute stinkers. But this time, they cannot afford to grind out another cagey draw & go home with a point each. This is a knockout game. Something has got to give!
Solskjaer might not have won any trophies with United, but his knockout stages record in cup competitions with them is admirable. For, the Red Devils have never had a 4th round exit in any cup competition around him. To make sure that record stays intact, United need to bring their best to the table.
As they continue challenging for the league, Solskjaer might rest the likes of Paul Pogba & Bruno Fernandes for this one. Which means Donny van de Beek might be in line for the biggest game of his United career. This will be his chance to prove that he deserves to play more often in the first XI, preferably ahead of Pogba & Bruno.
The Dutch midfielder’s unique skillset actually makes him perfect to counter Liverpool’s famous high press style. With his cute flicks, brilliant close-control & tendency to carve open defences with clever passes, Van de Beek’s link-up play will be crucial for United to create definitive chances.
Marcus Rashford got a rest against Fulham, so he will start this derby. The Englishman was disappointing at Anfield & has lots to do to redeem himself. That includes being more decisive in the final third, improving his decision-making and actually timing those forward runs perfectly to stop being offside all the time!
Cup-expert Juan Mata could also start. The experienced Spaniard’s creativity could be the key for opening up LFC’s defence & creating chances for the forwards. Anthony Martial will mostly be given a chance to prove himself as a No.9 with Edinson Cavani likely to be rested, so he needs to be more clinical & proactive upfront to finish off whatever chances arrive.
Like United, Liverpool are likely to rest some of their key stars because of the exhausting schedule ahead. The Reds are struggling for goals or wins. Indeed, with just 1 win in the last 6 games (in all competitions), Klopp’s side is in a bit of a crisis. But for games like this, form goes out the window and LFC will play like blood-thirsty tigers in this one.
So expect the trio of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane & Roberto Firmino to torment United’s backline with their dangerous link-up play & ruthlessness in attack. Moreover, Curtis Jones & Thiago Alcantara will add the creative quality through midfield, while Trent Alexander-Arnold & Andy Robertson remain thorns with their accurate delivery.
The Red Devils should go with the trusted midfield of Scott McTominay & Fred to ensure the visitors don’t run away with the game. But the backline also must turn up big, as they did at Anfield, to help United get a win on Sunday.
That includes Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw & Victor Lindelof all needing to put in a lot of hard work to ensure cup goalkeeper Dean Henderson isn’t put under intense pressure. While they need to be wary defensively, the Red Devils can’t just park the bus & hope to threaten on the counter-attack again.
They need to be braver than they were Anfield, look to get hold of more possession & raise more questions of LFC’s defence. Liverpool are vulnerable right now, so the Red Devils have no excuses not to take necessary risks & opt for a more attacking style to knock their rivals out of the cup.
I think this will definitely be more entertaining than the 0-0 draw at Anfield. Despite the side’s contrasting run of form, this could go either way. But I’ll trust my gut and go for a narrow 2-1 win for United, even if it takes extra time to get it.