Liverpool FC vs. Manchester United: 5 Key Battles at Anfield
The sides last met at Anfield in March earlier this year, and Liverpool swept Manchester United aside 3-1, leaving the title race wide open at the time.
The stakes are not as high this time around, but it goes without saying that defeat is not an option for either side.
Here are five steps that Manchester United can take to secure victory at Anfield on Saturday.
1. Play Directly to the Heart of Liverpool's Defense
Liverpool's frailties in defense are not new.
Injuries and the subsequent lack of game time have plagued their back four over the past two seasons, and this has resulted in patchy form and unconvincing performances.
Players playing in strange roles is also an issue for Liverpool, and this can be punished by the likes of Nani and Ashley Young.
A direct game, targeting the heart of a disjointed Liverpool center-half pairing, could pay dividends.
2. Aggravate Liverpool's Players
Liverpool's propensity for getting red cards is an area that can be exploited by United when the two sides meet.
When the red mist comes down, players like Lucas, Charlie Adams and Luis Suarez are prone to letting go of all inhibitions, and this can be capitalized upon.
3. Employ Width
Nani has been in imperious form so far this season, and it will be important that United utilize his ball-carrying skills against Liverpool.
It is more than likely that Liverpool will attempt to nullify his impact in the game by man-marking him, so why not indulge them?
Ashley Young and Nani can be used down the flanks to create width for United, and the more players attracted to them, the more space in the middle.
And with more space and time in the middle, United can impose their superiority on the game.
4. Be Disciplined in Defense
Against Chelsea, United allowed the Blues 22 shots on goal to their 14.
These numbers are no fluke. United have played very open football so far this season, and this has left them prone at the back.
Patrice Evra is way too attack-minded, Phil Jones's forays up the pitch leaves gaps at the back and the midfield—lacking a real defensive-minded player—does not track back as readily as it should.
Players like Dirk Kuyt—who punished United last season—and Luis Suarez will thrive if things remain as they are.
Defense discipline will be necessary against Liverpool.
5. There Must Be a Dominant Midfield Presence
To succeed at Anfield against the Liverpool players and the crowd, the United players will have to quieten the opposition.
United will have to take away Liverpool's hope.
With Tom Cleverley recovering from a foot injury, United will have to do without their first choice midfield pairing of himself and Anderson. In Cleverley's place, Sir Alex Ferguson will likely employ the services of Darren Fletcher.
United will need every single iota that Fletcher can give, as his work rate and industriousness could be the deciding factor.
In order to win, United cannot afford an absent midfield against Liverpool, who are a side looking for an excuse to make a name for themselves.