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  • Premier League Analysis: Five Key Battles For Manchester United Vs Liverpool

Premier League analysis: Five key battles for Manchester United vs Liverpool

Manchester United will lock horns with title-chasing Liverpool in a mouth-watering Premier League clash at Old Trafford on Sunday (1530 BST).

Jurgen Klopp’s Reds swept struggling Sheffield United aside at Anfield on Thursday evening, while Erik ten Hag’s United left Stamford Bridge crushed after their last minute 4-3 defeat.

Here, Planet Sport looks at the key battles likely to unfold at Old Trafford on Sunday. 


Erik ten Hag vs Jurgen Klopp

Managers Klopp and Ten Hag are locked in a high-stakes battle as they strive for victory in this historic clash. Klopp's desire for a win isn't just about securing points - it's about driving his team closer to league glory in his final season with the club.

Meanwhile, for Ten Hag, a triumph isn't just about securing a Champions League spot: it's about solidifying his position under new ownership next season.

Every win for Ten Hag now could mean the difference between keeping or losing his job. The pressure is on for both managers, but particularly for Ten Hag, making it imperative for him to finish the season on a high note.

In their storied careers, the paths of managers Klopp and Ten Hag have crossed six times. The rivalry traces back to the 2020 Champions League campaign, where Ten Hag helmed Ajax and Klopp led Liverpool.

Klopp clinched victories in both encounters that season against Ajax, and boasts three wins, one draw, and two losses in their head-to-head battles. However, the narrative shifts when focusing on their performances with their Premier League clubs.

During his tenure in England, Ten Hag has outwitted Klopp on multiple occasions. As Manchester United boss, Ten Hag has faced Klopp's Liverpool four times, securing victory twice while Klopp managed to win only once, with a draw in one encounter.

This head-to-head record should boost Ten Hag's confidence in his squad, particularly after Manchester United's recent thrilling 4-3 victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup, a match that showcased the Red Devils' prowess and determination.

The way in which Ten Hag seems to set up against the top teams and how he has done previously before against Klopp, is to let the opponents have the majority of the ball and for his team to hit them on the break.

Ten Hag has said himself that he wants to be the best transitional team in the league, meaning that they do not need to see too much of the ball in order to hurt their opposition.   


Mohamed Salah vs Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Both players, who have recently returned from injury, will be looking to outperform each other, and we can expect an entertaining battle on their side of the pitch.

Wan-Bissaka has recently moved to the left-back position because Diogo Dalot has performed admirably in his absence at right-back; however, Wan-Bissaka has still been able to deliver impressive performances in this role.

However, Salah's threat cannot be ignored; the Egyptian is the league's third-highest goal scorer and is one assist away from being the top assists creator this season.

Wan-Bissaka made a name for himself during his breakout season at Crystal Palace, finishing third in the league for the most tackles with 129 in the 2018/19 season.

He carried this success into his debut season at Manchester United, leading the league in tackles in the 2019/20 campaign.

Despite tough competition, he maintained an impressive fifth place in the following year, showcasing his resilience in tackling.

In the current Premier League season, he kicked it off with a bang, as by November he stood out as the only player to tally 10+ tackles in a single Premier League game twice.

But injuries have plagued his journey since then, with the Englishman only recently making his return.

Dubbed "The Spider," he has earned praise from both players and managers for his defensive prowess. Ironically, a legend of the club he will be facing this weekend, Jamie Carragher, even hails him as the best one-on-one defender among full-backs in the world.

As Salah goes head-to-head with Wan-Bissaka on Sunday, fans are in for a thrilling showdown between two masters of their craft.   

Bruno Fernandes vs Liverpool’s midfield

Bruno Fernandes is the heartbeat of Manchester United's midfield-to-attack transition. This season, his influence has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Leading the club's stats in through balls, crosses, assists, passes, touches, and shots, Fernandes epitomises midfield control and forward momentum.

His 23 through balls this season tower over the competition, placing him fourth in the league in most through balls completed.

Such dominance underscores his pivotal role in driving Manchester United's attacking force.

Opponents like Alexis Mac Allister and Wataru Endo must recognise the threat Fernandes poses. Allowing him freedom to roam is akin to granting United a direct pathway to goal.

As the focal point of their forward movement, Fernandes demands close attention and strategic restraint from rivals.

Endo and Mac Allister have been standout performers lately, cementing their spots in Liverpool’s starting line-up.

Dominik Szoboszlai, although a regular starter, often finds himself substituted off in the second half, typically for Ryan Gravenberch or Harvey Elliott.

His inability to complete full 90 minutes might stem from the formidable partnership between Endo and Mac Allister. Klopp prefers not to disturb the flow orchestrated by these two midfielders.

Mac Allister's recent stellar performance against his former team Brighton showcased his versatility across the pitch, culminating in an assist for Salah's winning goal.

Endo's role as the midfield enforcer complements Mac Allister's attacking prowess seamlessly. Their synergy on the field, where Endo does the dirty work and Mac Allister capitalises on it to push the attack, is evident. 

Mac Allister's assist tally for Liverpool in just 24 games matches his total for Brighton in 98 games, indicating his remarkable improvement and adaptability in Liverpool's midfield.

With Mac Allister demonstrating what he can do in going forward, Klopp may be under the impression that he does not need to play Szoboszlai because Mac Allister has provided the manager with a lot of productivity in terms of finding passes in the channels.

Therefore, Endo playing the six position where he excels elevates Mac Allister’s game going forward.

An intriguing battle looms as Fernandes prepares to face the in-form midfield duo of Mac Allister and Endo.   


Liverpool attack vs Manchester United defence

Liverpool's attacking force has long been feared by opponents, with Salah's prowess well-documented. However, attention must now turn to Darwin Nunez, the central figure in their attacking set-up.

Nunez leads Liverpool in shots taken and ranks third in the league for total shots, tying with Salah for most shots on target in the league in third place.

His forward drive sees him topping the league in offsides - even though at face value it seems like a negative stat, it is indicative of his relentless pursuit of goal-scoring opportunities. 

Despite hitting the woodwork nine times this season, more than any other player, it underscores Nunez's ability to consistently find himself in dangerous positions. 

This poses a significant challenge for Manchester United's defence, which has been leaky, conceding a whopping 99 shots in their last four Premier League games.

Their recent defensive woes against the likes of Brentford where they conceded 31 shots, 23 shots to Everton, 27 shots to Manchester City, and 16 shots to Nottingham Forest, does not bode well against Liverpool's prolific attack.

In addition to Nunez and Salah, Luis Diaz completes Liverpool's formidable trio. Diaz's resurgence post-injury has gone somewhat unnoticed but has been crucial to Liverpool's recent successes.

His blend of pace and skill makes him a constant menace to opposing defences, as seen in his crucial equalising goal against Brighton last weekend.

With Lisandro Martinez sidelined for the rest of the season, Manchester United's defence faces a daunting task containing Liverpool's potent attacking trio.

Rasmus Hojlund vs Liverpool’s defence 

Hojlund's recent injury halted his momentum. Before his injury, it appeared that everything he touched went in, as he was named Premier League Player of the Month in February.

Now that he is back, he appears to be finding his feet, but it should not be forgotten that he is still a clinical finisher; the issue is that he simply requires the service of his team-mates, which appears to be lacking at times.

Liverpool's defence allows teams to have chances, and while they are strong up front, they have won seven games this season in which they were behind in the game, which is their joint most in a Premier League season with still eight games remaining.

Gaining 21 points from losing positions is impressive, but it still speaks to their defensive flaws, as they have conceded at least one goal in eight of their last 10 games.

Injuries have plagued Liverpool's defence, resulting in constant changes in the line-up. With key players sidelined, maintaining defensive solidity becomes a daunting task.

Despite the adversity, defensive replacements such as Conor Bradley have been very impressive.

In their game against Brighton, the right-back had the highest expected assists, most duels won, most recoveries, most chances created, and most take ons completed in the first half, indicating a very solid performance, particularly in that period.

However, Manchester United's forward will be eager to exploit Liverpool's defensive lapses. With mistakes evident and opportunities available, it's a challenge Liverpool must address to maintain their title ambitions.



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