Man Utd v Liverpool; The three key battles to look out for

Ahead of gameweek nine, Manchester United sit embarrassingly in the both half of the table in 13th place and will be taking on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who are looking to extend their lead at the top of the league as both sides will take on one another in the Sunday afternoon fixture at Old Trafford.

Without a doubt, both clubs will be aiming to make statement of their own whilst looking to earn bragging rights, in a match that will surely be watched by nearly every football fan around the world. The Red Devils have had a really good record in this feisty fixture over the last ten years or so, whilst the red side of Merseyside have surprisingly not won at Old Trafford in the league since 2014.

It’s time to look at the three vital battles that could help to decide the fate of this huge fixture…

Daniel James vs Trent Alexander-Arnold

Since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the permanent manager of the club, Daniel James has been the one attacking player that has been a constant threat for the side, through his intelligent dribbling and direct style of play. With Anthony Martial unlikely to be placed straight back into the team after coming back from injury, the hopes of the United supporters and Solskjaer himself will be in the hands of the speedy Welshman.

James will be in for a close and tight encounter with Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is seen as one of Liverpool’s key creators from the flanks as well as one of the best right-backs in the league and in Europe. The 21-year-old has played a crucial role in helping the side to have the best defensive record in the league, whilst also being seen as the main man when it comes to taking set-pieces.  

Sadio Mane vs Aaron Wan-Bissaka

It’s no secret that Liverpool’s most deadly and influential player in the final third of the pitch is none other than Sadio Mane at the moment, an individual who has an incredible burst of pace as well as the ability to take on two to three players with ease when required. If he can find the urge and desire, he normally shows when his side need him the most, he could definitely help his team to win their first ever Premier League title whilst potentially contend for the Player of the Year award.

Mane has been offering the ideal mixture of electric spark and directness from the left flank, making him the world class attacking outlet he was dreaming of becoming since his early days at Southampton. He will be up against Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has recently returned from injury and is well-known for his defensive contributions, completing a number of interceptions and tackles on a weekly basis, making him the perfect full-back that United need on both sides of the pitch.

Scott McTominay vs Jordan Henderson

Given the lack of midfield options that Solskjaer has available, as well as Paul Pogba being on the sidelines for a couple of weeks, it means that Scott McTominay has to step up and be the main man for the midfield and for the team. For sure, he may not be a talented player or technically gifted like the others, but through his aerial ability, physicality and hard work on and off the ball, it may be just enough to get his team-mates going and produce a possible shocker over long-term rivals Liverpool.

Meanwhile for Liverpool, Jordan Henderson will be potentially utilised as a box-to-box midfielder and will be hoping that his leadership, types of passing and incredible work rate will help his team to go on to win the fixture. The 29-year-old has time and time again proved himself, to be an important player within Jurgen Klopp’s system, even when he came under a huge amount of criticism from his own supporters and the English media, which has helped him to become the player he is today.

6 classic Manchester United vs Liverpool matches from the Premier League era

Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool (2009)

Liverpool headed to Old Trafford in March 2009 knowing that anything other than victory would in effect rule them out of the Premier League title race. Indeed, a Manchester United win would move them seven points clear of their fierce rivals, and Alex Ferguson’s men would also have a game in hand and the chance to extend their advantage to 10 points.

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Should Manchester United be targeting Moussa Dembele?

The January transfer window might still be a few months away, but decisions behind the scenes are now being made and lists with potential targets being drawn up.

Manchester United know, given their results, they have to recruit in the winter market, even if it is not a preferred course of action. There is a reason as to why few clubs operate in January, and it is primarily due to the hike in already inflated transfer fees.

However, the Red Devils, currently sitting in 12th place, having scored less goals than Wolves, Aston Villa and Norwich, are having monumental problems at the top of the pitch and simply have to address it halfway through the season.

After moving Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez on in the summer, and then failing to replace them, there is little wonder as to why they are in the position they are in now. Mason Greenwood might have had more opportunities to play, but he is still only 17-years-old, and is not in a position to have authority in matches.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are the two registered centre forwards, although there is a strong case to suggest that the England international is better suited on the wing. Unlike the Frenchman, Rashford does not possess the killer instincts and composure in front of goal when tasked with a one-on-one situation.

As seasons progress, injuries occur, which is exactly what has hampered Martial and caused him to remain on the sidelines. And so Rashford is then left with the pressure to be the out-and-out goalscorer – something he does not look comfortable with at all.

One striker on the continent that has been linked with Manchester United time and time again is Olympique Lyon’s Moussa Dembele.

The Frenchman has an impressive record already this season, having scored six Ligue 1 goals in only eight appearances so far this campaign. In 2018/19, Dembele mustered up 23 goals and six assists in 52 appearances – a highly impressive tally after making the move from Celtic to Lyon.

Dembele is not the tallest of strikers, standing at 1.83m, but he does know where the space is inside the box and comes alive in close quarters. The Frenchman’s movement and precision is near enough perfection, pulling away from defenders and anticipating where the ball either might fall, or where the intended cross will end up to be on the end of it.

Lyon are usually hard negotiators and do not let their players leave easily. As seen last summer, Tanguy Ndombele finally made his move, which Tottenham had to pay over £50 million for.

Jean-Michel Aulas, the club’s President, is a famed negotiator, which does not bode well given the time restraints in January, as well as the ineptitude of the club’s negotiators behind the scenes.

Dembele is not the type of player to carry an exorbitant ego into the dressing room at Old Trafford, given he is not at the highest echelon of world football yet, but he has the potential to get there should he carry on working hard and delivering performances.

It is clear Manchester United are trying to move away from the prima-donnas of the world in Sanchez and Angel Di Maria, and instead focussing on players who can buy into the club’s philosophy and mentality.

A very well-rounded centre forward who has a history of consistency is what the Red Devils and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer need, and so bringing Dembele in during the January transfer window might just be the catalyst in scoring the department.

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Newcastle 1-0 Man Utd: More problems for Ole’s young Red Devils

Although the main focus of gameweek eight was Liverpool beating Leicester City in the last moments of the game, typically from the penalty spot, and Man City dropping points once again, this time at home to Wolves. It was a great chance for Manchester United to get back to winning ways just before the international break, as they faced a cold and wet trip away to Newcastle United.

The match as a whole, was one-sided in favour of the visitors in terms of the control in possession and the amount of successful passes that were completed in general. Though, the hosts piled on the pressure half way through the first half and were not afraid to attack United’s defence through drive and pace of both Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, who played with great confidence.

After the half-time break, the breakthrough came for Newcastle in 72nd minute of the match, where they were able to counter-attack from a Man Utd corner, with Matthew Longstaff scoring an absolute peach of a goal from just outside of the box. A number of questions were raised about the visitor’s individual defending, as they could have done a lot to prevent the goal from happening.

Towards the final 15 to 20 minutes of the game, the Red Devils did begin to cause problems and attack with more intent into the final third of the pitch, but Newcastle’s stubborn and physical defence were able to see it out till the final whistle. Steve Bruce’s men were able to achieve the three much needs points whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have to go back to the drawing board.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Ole’s days at the club look pretty much numbered

It’s not been a good couple of weeks for Ole personally, with his last victory in the league being back in the middle of September and since then, he has failed to beat the likes of West Ham, Arsenal and now Newcastle United. Not only that, his team completed an unconvincing performance away to AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League whilst failing to beat Rochdale in the League Cup within normal time.

For sure, it is not straightforward to explain or the state the reasons of the side’s downfall, but it has been a huge ask to request a former manager of Cardiff City and Molde to bring stability to a big club like Man Utd and guide them to success in all the competitions they take part in. Also, given the lack of quality and squad depth, the Norwegian’s time at Old Trafford looks to be numbered day by day.

Decisions and planning are badly required during the international break

Everyone at Manchester United will be more than happy that two weeks of international football has arrived, as they can aim to think about the club’s plan for the remainder of the season and what would be the ideal for the manager and the players. Some rumours have began in possibly sacking Ole before the Liverpool game, whilst others have raised that a full meeting between everyone to discuss ongoing matters and how to solve them would be the more appropriate approach.

Truth be told, the greedy and incompetent owners as well as Ed Woodward, do not really bother with how the football club do on the pitch, as long as they are making enough money off it and are seeing the value of the club continue to increase. It just happens to be one of the reasons to why they have spent around £1billion over the last six to seven years, yet there has been no consistent success in the Champions League or in the Premier League, which pretty much sums up everything.

The young Man Utd squad are clearly lacking leaders and world class players

Majority of the English media and the Premier League experts were expecting the Red Devils to have a difficult season and see themselves experience most of the campaign outside of the top-six finish. And, that has proven to be the case, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United are missing the required quality in midfield and most importantly in attack, to guide them to a Champions League spot and any potential success in the cup competition.

With the club failing to bring in a number of players throughout the summer transfer window, whilst already ignoring the departure of both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, it was never going to be an easy and simple season for the club as a whole. On top of that, the lack of leaders was an important factor that needed work on over the summer, as the squad have a consistency to crumble when they are needed the most, and have a tendency to not step up, which happens to still be the same outcome.

Can Brandon Williams replace Luke Shaw

After yet another away game without a win, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has some serious thinking to do about how to improve Manchester United’s fortunes between now and the end of the season. 

Sitting in 10th place in the Premier League, the Red Devils are going to be on the backfoot now and, with the limited squad they possess, will not be feared by any visiting team looking for those crucial three points.

Manchester United might have brought in three talents in the summer transfer window to bolster the team, but the club are still a number of core players away from getting anywhere close to where they want to be.

An area on the pitch that has been most disconcerting in recent years has been left back. Luke Shaw was signed from Southampton to lock down that position for years to come, but after the Englishman’s double leg break in 2015, he is yet to sustain a season without any injuries or consistent performances.

In the Red Devils’ latest Europa League fixture against AZ Alkmaar, it was Brandon Williams who stepped in at left back after a successful start to the season with the reserves. In his five appearances in the Premier League 2, Williams has four assists and has had the armband at 19-years-old.

Manchester United quite clearly rate the England youth international highly, which is why he has played against Rochdale in the Carabao Cup, as well as Rotherham earlier in the season in the EFL Trophy.

Shaw is only 24 himself with a contract that runs until 2023. It is plain to see that his attacking output is nowhere near what it should be, which is why attention is now being turned to this position by the fans in order to add another dimension to the team’s attack.

The former Southampton full back was close to exiting Old Trafford under José Mourinho’s harsh treatment, but signed a new five-year deal 12 months ago. There has been a slight improvement under Solskjær, but he is not yet regained his confidence he had when down on the south coast, nor when he first joined the club.

Williams looks hungry and motivated to challenge Shaw and begin his understudy role this season. In his 90 minutes against Alkmaar, on a poor surface pitch and in a team that is drastically underperforming, Williams came out on top and looked a class act.

Of course, the young left back is going to have moments that highlight his rawness, but at 19, it is to be expected. There is a great maturity shown by Williams in a defensive manner, which is coupled with his eagerness to get forward and try to create something in attack.

There are bound to be more twists and turns in this season for Manchester United, but one thing that is for certain is their youth are ready to make the next step and challenge the seasoned professionals who are not quite cutting it.

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Why James Garner is ready to step up in Manchester United’s midfield

With the current problems on the pitch for Manchester United primarily coming from the midfield, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has to now believe in his youth to be able to offer an alternative to this stagnation.

James Garner, who has been at Manchester United since a boy, is ready to take that next step and join the first-team on a weekly basis. The young Englishman has had a few opportunities to be in the squad, as he was on Tuesday evening against Lincoln City, but his chances have not been as regular as the other academy graduates.

Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood and Angel Gomes appear to be above Garner on the pecking order, but it is arguably Garner that can make the much-needed difference that the Norwegian manager is looking for.

Unknown to the fans, but for some reason, the Red Devils failed to sign a midfielder last summer after allowing Ander Herrera to leave on a free transfer, as well as selling Marouane Fellaini in the January window. Two key players for different reasons have moved on and yet no one was brought in.

And so there is little surprise to see why Man United’s midfield is currently struggling to dominate matches and get the team on the front foot. There is, of course, also the never-ending saga of Paul Pogba’s future, who looks increasingly fed up of recent times and has put in back-to-back derisory performances against Rochdale and Arsenal.

In Garner’s six games with the reserves, six wins have been recorded, 16 goals scored and 0 goals conceded. Without the bright midfielder, Neil Wood’s side have drawn one and lost one, while also shipping six goals.

The contrast is stark when the team is with and without Garner, which is why he is an essential cog in the reserves side. However, given the current crisis in the first-team’s midfield, Garner should be fast-tracked and be given the belief that he can begin to effect matches at senior level.

While the England youth international is typically a defensive midfielder, his five goals and three assists this season at academy level suggest he has the room to operate around the box, similarly to Paul Scholes. When the Red Devils faced Lincoln on Tuesday in the EFL Trophy, Garner scored the winning goal and showed yet again his threat moving forward.

One of the biggest conundrums United have had in recent history has been the utilisation of Pogba in the team. The France international is substantially more dangerous when played in a number 10 role, which is why Herrera’s involvement was so important in order to balance the midfield and provide cover.

Nemanja Matić and Herrera who has now left, Man United need a Garner-type player who can slot in front of the back four and allow the team to move forward, as well as permitting Pogba his freedom in the final third.

At 18-years-old, Garner is, of course, going to make mistakes, but this season has already shown that the Red Devils are miles off the pace as it is. With Solskjær’s promise of bringing youth through the club, the young midfielder has to be the next player to be given a proper chance of competing for a position in the team.

Manchester United’s fall from grace will be underlined by a lack of quality strikers

When Manchester United lost to West Ham, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was asked about his lack of strikers, especially if one of them gets injured like in the case of Anthony Martial. He responded diplomatically by suggesting that on the strikers department there isn’t a problem and seemed happy with that statement. His eyes seemed to say something else though and a few days later in his own press conference he mentioned that the club will be looking for a striker to come in for January.

It is hard to think of a United side who have looked so average up front. At the end of the day Anthony Martial who came from Monaco ended up being the striker that could have been and the one that got away from United was actually the other youngster coming up the ranks in Kylian Mbappe who now plays for PSG.

Marcus Rashford is a quality striker when on form and has got some important goals for the club. However he is 22 and maybe more would have been expected of him given that he has never scored more than 10 league goals in his career, and he has spent 5 seasons with the club. This isn’t to say that Rashford doesn’t deserve his place because he does and plays off well in the team.

Daniel James can attack too and he looks one for the future, and the three attackers have scored 8 of United’s goals from 9 this season. But at the same time United not only have young strikers and no stardust if you like, but also players that can perform on their day but simply aren’t consistent enough, and that will be key in thinking United may not even finish in the top six this season. At this rate top 4 looks very distant too.

It’s hard to think that this situation would have been allowed under Sir Alex Ferguson and that was to sell Romelu Lukaku for over £70m but not replace him, that seemed like an odd choice. Instead United went for defence and brought in Harry Maguire for £80m, but the club need to be in a situation where they could have afforded both targets. If one looks at Mauro Icardi for example, a goalscorer that was bought by PSG as they believed Neymar would be sold and they had injuries up front, instead of resting on their laurels the club knew they had to bring in quality, and they did.

United seemed to have taken their eye off the ball and even if they can navigate themselves until January, that is a month where traditionally the best players are not available. A penny for your thoughts, Ole?

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6 classic Manchester United vs Arsenal Premier League matches from the rivalry’s golden era

Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United, November 1997

Arsene Wenger’s first full season in charge of Arsenal ended in a dual domestic triumph, with the north Londoners winning a domestic double of Premier League title and FA Cup. They beat Manchester United to top spot in the top flight by a single point, which means their two wins against their closest challengers proved decisive.

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Manchester United are in serious turmoil after latest defeat

Manchester United lost 2-0 away to West Ham and their season turns from bad to worse. The Red Devils have slipped to 8th place and are already 10 points behind league leaders Liverpool.

Have United ever been this bad since Sir Alex Ferguson retired from the game in 2013?

It is clear as daylight that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not the man to lead the club. He is a good man, a footballing person, but this job is simply too big for him. And that is unfortunate as there are two versions of the manager. The first is the smiling man who came into rescue the club last December as they went 10 games undefeated and played their best football in almost a decade. Then there is the man who used to manage Cardiff and who got them relegated, that is the man that United have.

Fans are starting to call for his sacking, it’s brutal yes, but at the same time he isn’t the clubs right manager.

United have won just 2 games all season and even though we are into the early days nothing looks right at the club. It’s true that they are playing some good positive football but results are not going their way and the truth is that the usual United fear factor has evaporated.

His record with United after that bright start is actually incredibly poor with a 21% win rate. He has won just 4 games with the club from 19. Had this been beginning of the season league form then United would have had 17 points mid season, that is the damning verdict that Solskjaer has no future with the club.

As it stands United look like they would finish with about 53 points, which is light years away from where they need to be. Now let’s take a look at their upcoming fixtures.

United’s next four league fixtures look tricky. First they will face Arsenal at home which will not be easy at all. Next they will play Newcastle away from home and Steve Bruce will add more spice to that as Newcastle’s manager and ex United player. After that they have a massive game at home to Liverpool and then they will play Norwich away who have already beaten Manchester City at home.

It doesn’t seem possible that Solskjaer will be able to turn this around, at the same time who would United go in for? That answer is simple, Massimiliano Allegri is a free agent and he has the right experience at the biggest clubs to perhaps bring United back to where they belong. Solskjaer’s number looks up, it just seems now when and where it will happen.

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Romelu Lukaku is becoming a massive hit in Serie A despite the racists

When Romelu Lukaku joined Inter Milan to play in Serie A there were those that doubted the Belgian striker would be able to adapt to a league known for its defence. But Lukaku has just won the Milan derby, as Inter beat AC Milan 2-0 and he has got off to a superb start in the league.

In truth one could wonder why Manchester United sold him- was it because he had an average last season, where he scored 12 league goals. That’s very possible but he was still averaging 1 goal every 2 games and all in all was very consistent. But maybe the move has done Lukaku well. Maybe just maybe he was beginning to go stale at United, and had spent too much time in the Premier League. It does seem evident with the way he has started at Inter Milan that he needed his career to be refreshed. For now it is working wonders.

Lukaku has scored 3 goals in 4 Serie A games for his new club and has hit the ground running. His start means that he will now be a constant pick in the Inter Milan side. In Italy clubs have been notorious for dropping players to the bench who do not start their careers well. Lukaku has simply been on fire, make no mistake.

As for the club Inter Milan look like being at their most strongest since the Jose Mourinho years a decade ago. They are top of the league with 4 wins from as many games, have scored 9 goals and conceded just one, and also are 2 points in front of Juventus who have won the league for the past eight years. The Old Lady as Juventus are called finally seem to have a genuine rival.

Inter will be hoping that Lukaku can transform some of his brilliant form into the Champions League also, and the club did struggle in their first game when only a last minute injury time goal saved them from losing against Slavia Prague at home.

The only sour note of course with regards to Lukaku’s move to Italy is the racism he has had to endure. It has been a sad state of affairs with even his own fans defending racist chants from opposition fans. A Journalist on TV was also suspended for commentating on Lukaku, and the truth is with UEFA doing next to nothing, this will continue as clubs are not being discouraged.

But at least Lukaku his answering the best way he can, and that is on the pitch scoring plenty of goals.

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