Mixed feelings from the Manchester United camp this week as they make the short journey to Anfield on Sunday. United went into the Valencia game with no pressure to win after a comfortable victory against Fulham last Saturday, however a slow, dreary and passive performance against Valencia handed the lower-mid table Spanish side a 2-0 lead thanks to messy defending and lacklustre attacking play. Can United get anything from Liverpool after that? It’s doubtful. Top of the table after a 4-0 victory at Bournemouth, Liverpool has progressed to the Champion’s League Round of 16, thanks to a 1-0 victory over Napoli. Both teams have class players, one has more impressive form, but both sides are accomplished in a 4-3-3 formation, so that’s what we’ve used. Here is the Liverpool United combined X1:
GOALKEEPER: De Gea
No decision necessary. Liverpool's goalkeeper has been excellent so far and only made one or two mistakes all season, but David de Gea has been an outstanding servant to the Red Devils, carrying his side year after year and hopefully for many more to come.
RIGHT BACK: Alexander-Arnold
An easy decision. An outstanding young talent for club and country, TAA shines whenever he plays. Dalot is getting to that point and should start against Liverpool on Sunday, but has not shown it yet. Valencia was average again for United in Spain and is likely to leave as a free agent in the summer.
CENTRE BACKS: Bailly and Van Dijk
Liverpool's defence has improve dramatically; it’s one of the reasons why they are top of the table and have only conceded six goals in sixteen games, with Virgil van Dijk being pivotal. The big Dutchman has significantly impacted Liverpool's performances with his aerial prowess and brute strength commanding the back. Even better, he can play out from the back; a skill coveted by the best managers from defenders. Eric Bailly is United's best defender; better than Lovren or Matip, he uses his pace and strength to his advantage and should definitely start this Sunday.
LEFT BACK: Robertson
He’s had a remarkable rise since joining Liverpool last summer. They desperately needed a left back for so long, then Robertson arrived after being relegated with Hull the season before and has shone. He already has three assists this season and shows no signs of stopping. Could Real Madrid or Barcelona come calling for him soon? Alba and Marcelo aren't getting any younger.
MIDFIELD THREE: Herrera, Keita and Mata
Liverpool’s midfield is definitely their biggest weakness; something that United should capitalize on. Henderson and Milner are solid players, but do make mistakes, their recent games against PSG and Red Star Belgrade being prime examples. Ander Herrera has been excellent since coming back into the fray for Manchester United and should play on Sunday. Regular injuries have halted Naby Keita's progress this season. He hasn’t played much, but when he does, his pace and energy is incredible. Any side would love to have him, especially one with Jurgen Klopp's philosophy.
Honestly, on Wednesday at 19:59 GMT I would have put Paul Pogba in my starting XI and the United squad but after watching the Valencia game, I am not so sure. He had moments of brilliance, but they were rare and never led to anything. At least Mata tried to get the game going with his quick passing and runs. Unfortunately, his sluggish teammates never found him.
WINGERS: Salah and Rashford
Mohammed Salah has proved the 'one season wonder' chanters wrong. With continued composure in front of goal, as seen by a hat trick against Bournemouth and a deciding goal against Napoli, he would be an asset to any side and will be the main man for Liverpool this Sunday.??Based on form, Marcus Rashford starts over Sadio Mane as the Senegalese forward has not scored a league goal since late October. Rashford on the other hand starred against Fulham at the weekend, was vital for the comeback against Southampton and after coming off the bench against Valencia halved the deficit with a good header. His raw pace could pose as a challenging threat for the Liverpool defence.
He has never been a classic number nine like Harry Kane or Luis Suarez, but comes deep to act like a playmaker and works hard for the side every time he steps onto the pitch. A bargain for £30 million (2015), he could easily sell for £80 million plus. That said, if Martial was fit Firmino would struggle to get into the squad as the Brazilian has only 4 Premier League goals to his name, whereas Martial has 7. Lukaku may have scored against Fulham and Southampton, but he needs to do more if he wants to start for United generally, let alone start at Anfield.