Premier League Tactical Preview: Liverpool vs Manchester United


One of the biggest rivalries in English football will take on a new twist on Sunday.

David Moyes will take his Manchester United side to face Liverpool (a former foe from his days at Everton) for the first time. Having drawn 0-0 at home against Chelsea he will want to take all three points at Anfield, although Liverpool have taken maximum points from their two league games so far. 

Liverpool are Unibet's favourites at 2.50, with United just outside odds at 2.75 for the win. This could be a very interesting and tight clash.


Possible line-ups

Liverpool's line-up has been consistent so far and it's difficult to expect many changes for Brendan Rodgers, given the fact his side have taken maximum points and also kept back-to-back clean sheets.

For Manchester United, Wayne Rooney will likely continue in the starting line-up after a busy display against Chelsea last weekend, with the rest of the team likely to be similar as United are yet to make a signing of note thus far.


Liverpool's midfield approach 

Liverpool's primary approach under Brendan Rodgers is to maintain possession and to use the ball as effectively as possible. Since taking over the club this has worked relatively well with the three centre midfielders controlling the game and with the three forwards interchanging at will to create space.

The Red's opening day 1-0 victory over Stoke was a prime example of this. Liverpool completed over 100 more short passes than their opponents as well as enjoying 55% of the total possession. At the heart of this style of play are Liverpool's two deepest lying midfield players: Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva.

The two midfielders tend to sit in front of the back four and knock the ball around to keep play ticking over. Against Stoke, Gerrard completed more passes than any other player with a huge 75 accurate passes. Only three Premier League players completed more passes than Gerrard did that weekend. As we can see below, from this Squawka graphic, he was generally dictating the play from his own half:

Gerrard has become very effective at doing this and also played eight accurate long balls. Only three midfield players have averaged more long balls per game than Gerrard so far this season.

Manchester United’s midfield will have to work incredibly hard to press Liverpool and make sure that they are not allowed too much time to get their passing game flowing. This may be problematic for United who lack a mobile ball-winning midfielder. Michael Carrick will have a lot of work to do at the base of their midfield.


Wayne Rooney's role

Wayne Rooney returned to the Manchester United starting line-up for the first time since April with a stellar performance against Chelsea. The exit talk linking him with a move to Chelsea has now looked to have been quashed, with Rooney sure to start against Liverpool on Sunday. 

The attacker was a menace, dropping deep into midfield as well as linking up well with Robin van Persie. As we can see below, this could pose problems for Liverpool:

The fact that he'll drop into midfield will make him more difficult to pick up. This might create an interesting battle between Lucas Leiva and Rooney, as Leiva is Liverpool's most combative midfield player and will likely be operating in the area between midfield and defence for his side. The Liverpool midfielder has contributed 6.5 tackles per game for his side this season, more tackles than any other Premier League player, which is evidence of how important he can be against Rooney.

If Rooney is on song though he'll become incredibly difficult to deal with, as he was for large periods against Chelsea. His contribution to the midfield is also key, as he can help United attempt to deal with Liverpool's possession based style of play. 


Conclusion

Liverpool are the favourites in this tie but it will still be a very tight fixture. The home side will want to consolidate their claim that they can push for the top four, whilst United will be aware that any slip up will lead to a huge deal of scrutiny over David Moyes, despite the early stage of the season. Both clubs will be desperate for three points, in what could be a brilliant attacking encounter.


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