The start to the Premier League season was always going to be a challenging one for the new boss, but after the drab affair that was Manchester United versus Chelsea, the next fixture against the ‘Old Enemy’ will be expected to provide fireworks when the Red Devils visit Anfield on Sunday. Liverpool’s start to the season has been strong; they have not only looked dangerous going forward, they haven’t conceded a goal in the Premier League, and have taken maximum points to put them in a great position for Sunday.
David Moyes has been choosing from limited options since the community shield, when Rafael was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Today there was some good news however, as David Moyes said, “To be fair, we have got very few injuries, only Rafa really. Jonny got a game, which we felt he needed because he had missed a bit of pre-season, coming in and out at different times.”
In goal there is no doubt that De Gea will retain his place. The defence will likely mirror the four from Monday; Ferdinand, Vidic, and Evra all made it through the game without any problem so can be expected to start the against Liverpool. Jonny Evans may have played a full 90 minutes for the Under-21s last week but it may be too soon to bring him back into the first team. The only question that remains is whether or not Phil jones will retain his position on the right of the back four. Jones looked to struggle through the game against Chelsea after sustaining a knock from a heavy fall, but with no reports of an injury it will very surprising to see anyone else take the spot from him. If for some reason Jones doesn’t start Moyes does have options available; Valencia has experience playing at right back and has been reliable there. Fabio would look like the most obvious fit but it remains to be seen if Moyes rates him or not. The last option would be Smalling who has played there in the past but questions about his suitability at right back surround him.
The midfield is a much more complicated area of the pitch for United. After not producing much to break down the Chelsea defense on Monday night, Moyes may be inclined to make changes hoping for more creativity in an effort to unlock a Liverpool defense that has yet to concede a Premier League goal this season. With this said, if we are to learn anything from his selections so far it is that he is cautious, and this Sunday as Moyes continues through this opening gauntlet of Manchester United rivals we should expect much of the same.
If Valencia does not play at right back we can suppose that he will play on the right side of midfield. Ashley Young came on against Chelsea and looked lively; if Moyes does look for a more attacking option and doesn’t feel that Valencia can provide that, then the odds wound be on Young taking up the space on the right.
In the centre of midfield there is really only one position available. Michael Carrick has carried his form from last season through to this year, with his range of passing and all around reliability it would be hard to see Moyes electing not to start last years club “Player of the Year”. So far this season Cleverley has gotten the nod as the second man in the midfield four and this looks like being no different. The other options available are Giggs, Anderson, and Kagawa. Of these three the only option that would seem to have an outside chance of starting would be Giggs. The United legend started against Swansea and had a cameo role against Chelsea, but if Giggs is to play then this will likely be at the expense of one of the more attacking options such as Rooney or Welbeck as the Liverpool midfield of Gerrard, Lucas, and Henderson will cause problems for any midfield pair.
During the managers press conference on Friday David Moyes said, “Nani has done more training and is getting closer to it [match ready], Chicharito has had a hamstring but he has trained for the last three or four days and is doing much better. So we are very close to full strength.” This may lead to Nani making an appearance during the match on Sunday but ideas of starting a Premier League game may be a little premature. This means that the left of midfield is an easy choice for Moyes, despite the media continuing to write about Danny Welbeck’s goal return suffering from his playing on the left side of midfield, the English international will likely retain his position. Liverpool right back Glen Johnson is known for getting forward, in these cases a player like Welbeck who doesn’t neglect his defensive duties is imperative. The bonus you get from playing Welbeck is that once he has finished defending, he is more than willing to charge forward and get involved in the attacking play.
Up front we can expect nothing more than two of the most important players in the squad if United are to retain their Premier League crown this year. Wayne Rooney delivered a solid performance on Monday, while he may not have been at his best his overall work rate was high. Presumably Moyes will start Rooney after stating, “I felt he played very well the other night and he’s looking in good condition and is mentally in good shape too.” Alongside Rooney will likely be Robin Van Persie. Last years golden boot winner has a great record against Liverpool, scoring four in his last three appearances against the club.
Predicted Manchester United XI
Moyes is going to need Van Persie and co. to be at their very best on Sunday if they are to win at Anfield, something that the manager has never managed in the past. Speaking about how important a win against Liverpool will be he said, “[In some ways it’s] no different to any other game as you can only get three points for a win but it’d be a big win if we can do that. Liverpool are one of the strong teams this season so if we can do that it can be a good start.” Liverpool will undoubtedly be another mammoth challenge for David Moyes as he continues to adapt to the challenges of managing one the worlds biggest clubs.
How do you think United will do against Liverpool?