Manchester United: Predicting the Club's Lineup for Liverpool Clash
It is the rivalry with descendants way beyond the battle with the nouveau rich in the sky blue, and on Sunday the ancient rivalries between Manchester and Merseyside will be renewed.
Under Kenny Dalglish Liverpool appear a team transformed, and with the mercurial Luis Suarez leading the line, United will certainly have a game on their hands.
Wayne Rooney, United’s very own talisman comes into the match with redemption firmly set on the menu after his stupidly petulant sending off in Macedonia on Friday.
The stage is set…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
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After initially struggling to live up to the furore surrounding his arrival, David De Gea is really starting to justify his price tag with a string of fine performances.
Sir Alex has continually pledged his alliance to the young Spaniard, and De Gea is essentially a dead cert to be preferred to Anders Lindegaard against the old enemy.
Defence: Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra and Valencia
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This year, to all intents and purposes, appears to be the year of the changing guard. Such has been the maturity and efficiency with which the club's abundance of youthful talent have set about asserting their claims to the throne, that the future for Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand et al, in a football sense, appears brief.
That being said, with the injury to Chris Smalling, quite possibly ruling him out of contention, I feel the defensive emphasis, will be placed on experience to counteract the threat of Liverpool’s attacking surfeit.
Phil Jones, since joining the club, has been a revelation, and at only 19 years old, appears to be a very strong contender for future England captain. Yet United-Liverpool at Anfield is a different animal.
With this in mind I can see Sir Alex preferring the tried and tested defensive partnership of Vidic and Ferdinand to shackle Suarez and Carroll.
At left back Patrice Evra is a shoe-in for the role, as he has been for much of the season.
The dilemma that could arise is at right back. With no obvious first choice at the club (in the way Evra is at left-back), Smalling, Jones, Rafael and Fabio have all been afforded an opportunity in the berth.
Currently of the aforementioned quadruplet, only Jones and Fabio, natural centre and left-backs respectively, are fit and realistically available for selection. However, continuing with this emphasis on the experience of the back four I can see a less obvious choice getting the nod.
With the heroic early season form of Nani and Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, the standout star of the back end of last year has become the forgotten man of Old Trafford. Although a natural right winger by trade, the former Wigan man is also adept as an emergency right back. With pace to burn and something most definitely to prove, Valencia could well be the choice come Sunday.
Midfield: Young, Nani, Fletcher and Anderson
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The midfield that Sir Alex will be at luxury to chose from has a far more settled feel to it than the defence, with the first choice line-up almost certainly available.
Fresh from his nation’s heart-breaking loss to World Champions Spain in their critical Euro 2012 Qualifier, Scotland captain Darren Fletcher’s focus must now switch back to his club’s domestic bid. After missing the start of the season with a return of the virus that blighted the back-end of his last campaign, Fletcher is an integral ingredient to Sir Alex’s big-game sides.
The latest star to come of the centre-midfield production, Tom Cleverley, was the man to benefit from Fletcher’s absence at the start of the campaign, as he seized his chance with a number of impressive displays.
The young Cleverley is currently sidelined by injury, however, so the chance will almost certainly fall to the reinvigorated Anderson to continue his own impressive term. Having been at the club for almost four years, it was oft wondered whether Anderson would fall victim of his unrealised potential, yet it seems that this season he may well have come of age.
On the wings it will be very much as you were boys, as the form of both the acrobatic Portuguese Nani, and England’s own Ashley Young, have made the dynamic duo un-droppable.
Strikers: Rooney and Hernandez
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With a full accompaniment up front and no injuries to report Sir Alex will have the luxury to pick two from his five senior strikers—or feasibly Wayne Rooney plus one.
With Rooney’s hot-headed petulance the talk of the nation last week, it will be interesting to see how he bounces back on the domestic stage in the hole behind, almost certainly, Javier Hernandez.
The little pea has recently usurped youth-team product Danny Welbeck as Ferguson’s partner of choice, with last season’s top scorer Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen as reserves with differing levels of amiability.
Rooney and Chicarito it is then.
Substitutes: Lindegaard, Jones, Berbatov, Giggs, Park, Carrick, Fabio
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The bench is an interesting place. Young men, old men, forgotten men, not very good men—they all have their seats. Some will come on to change the game, some might come to ruin the game, and some have almost forgotten what a game is.
They sit with long, expectant faces, constantly frustrated.
At least they get paid.