Man United Vs Liverpool Tactical Preview

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It's doubtful there has been any fixture between [/sport/teampages/liverpool.html Liverpool] and [/sport/teampages/manchester-united.html Manchester United] since the late 1980s with the prospects so heavily stacked in favour of the Merseyside outfit.
These two great clubs of English football - and such great rivals - are clearly on very different trajectories at the moment.
While the star of European champions Liverpool is ascendant once again, United appear stuck in a potentially terminal decline following two decades of domination.
James Milner's 95th minute penalty earned Liverpool a 2-1 win over Leicester in their last match and carried them eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table
24 hours later, Manchester United suffered their third defeat of the season, losing at Newcastle
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, who have won their last 17 Premier League matches spanning this season and last, are already five points clear at the top and brimming with confidence.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United, who come into the weekend just one point above the relegation zone having already lost three times this season, appear completely directionless and devoid of quality in all areas.
Indeed, various combined XIs of the respective squads published this week either completely left out United players or included a token one such as Harry Maguire.
It's little wonder that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was smiling in training this week 
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tried to remain upbeat despite his team's troubles
And while Klopp described such things as a 'joke' and a 'banana skin' in his pre-match press conference on Friday, it does illustrate how these two are drifting apart at a quick rate.
So is there any way that United can upset the odds and hold or even defeat Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon? We take a look.
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Plenty is made of the myriad qualities of Liverpool's attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
That's little surprise when the three have already scored 17 goals between them in the opening two months of the season.
The speed and intelligence of their passing and movement, plus the interchangeability of their positioning, causes dizziness to any defence, let alone one so vulnerable as United's.
However, when the sides played out a goalless draw at Old Trafford back in February, United did find a way in highly unusual and tricky circumstances to not only hold Liverpool goalless but restrict them to just one shot on target.
Liverpool's fearsome front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane
Jordan Henderson cuts a frustrated figure during the teams' goalless draw back in February
After their attack, which had been firing on all cylinders during Solskjaer's temporary spell as manager, was blunted by the freakish scenario of first-half injuries to Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, United adapted.
They settled into a 4-3-1-2 formation and simply frustrated Liverpool's front line instead. It was more of a Jose Mourinho tactic but it proved effective on the day and stopped Liverpool going three points clear at the top.
Given that United are so brittle of confidence and really cannot afford another defeat, Solskjaer may well be tempted to start with this blocking tactic on Sunday.
In placing what was essentially a flat line of six across the edge of their penalty box, United succeeded in starving Salah, Firmino and Mane of any space in which to do their thing.
Georginio Wijnaldum is crowded out by Jesse Lingard and Scott McTominay at Old Trafford
Victor Lindelof (left), Harry Maguire (middle) and Nemanja Matic need to be disciplined
Every time one of them received the ball, they'd be surrounded by two or three red shirts, with Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay deployed in defensive roles ahead of Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling.
Each Liverpool attack crumbled on the edge of the United box and, while it goes against their instincts and threatens to bore the fans, it wouldn't be surprising to see the trick repeated.
United have had a real problem this season with picking up opposition players who have 'ghosted' to the edge of their box and not been picked up.
Ruben Neves curled home from 20 yards following a right-side cut-back in the 1-1 draw at Molineux in August and Newcastle's Matty Longstaff drilled home from a similar position to give Newcastle three points a fortnight ago.
Given the strength of Liverpool out wide because of their attack-minded, overlapping wing-backs Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, we are going to see plenty of cut-backs in search of Firmino or one of their midfielders.
Despite the attentions of four United players, Ruben Neves (right) was able to score from the edge of the box during the 1-1 draw at Wolves back in August

United have the advantage of McTominay and Nemanja Matic, set to play in the continued injury absence of Pogba, being more deep-lying so they should be in the right areas just outside the box.
But they need to remain alert. McTominay wasn't when Longstaff scored at St James' Park and no fewer than four out-rushing United players failed to stop Neves picking out the top corner.
It's certainly an area Liverpool will look to exploit so United need to be disciplined, with Maguire taking responsibility for positioning his colleagues when Liverpool attack.
Matty Longstaff was allowed plenty of room to drill home Newcastle's winner two weeks ago
Ashley Young might be targeted as the weak link by Liverpool down the right flank on Sunday
In terms of those in wider positions, you fear the worst for United if the speedy Mane takes on 34-year-old Ashley Young with Alexander-Arnold overlapping him.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka, just back from illness, should be better equipped to cope with whoever is on his flank but it won't take long to find out who Liverpool are targeting if Young starts on the opposite side.
Klopp's Liverpool are famous for their high press, setting those traps high up the field in order to snatch back possession as quickly as possible.
The midfielders like Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson will push forward, Salah and Mane will mark the wing-backs and Firmino will loiter in the middle for the quick pass to hoover up the scraps.
They will seek to exploit United's nervousness and sluggishness when passing the ball, something that has been evident in far too many of their games this season.
Sergio Romero is likely to play in goal for Manchester United on Sunday after De Gea's injury
One option would be for Sergio Romero, likely to deputise for the injured David De Gea, to just bypass it with long kicks and try to utilise the speed of Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Anthony Martial in behind.
To be honest, given United's skittishness against even modest opposition this season, this would be far preferable than attempting to play out from the back and losing possession 30 yards from their own goal.
It's time to stress test the theory that United are far better playing against teams that attack them than ones who sit back and defend.
Their most notable wins this season so far have been the 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea on the opening weekend of the season and the 1-0 home success over Leicester.
On both occasions, the opposition came to Old Trafford, weren't afraid to commit players forward and were picked open by a United quick in transition on the counter-attack.
Marcus Rashford celebrates during United's demolition of Chelsea on the opening weekend
Liverpool certainly won't hesitate in pushing forward this Sunday and Solskjaer believes it will play into United's hands.
'Sometimes we've struggled more in games where we've had to break teams down,' he told Sky Sports this week.
'We've had 75 or 80 per cent possession in games and we haven't been able to create the big chances.
'The Chelsea and Leicester games at home were 50-50 possession, and we've had more spaces to attack into.
'I can't see Liverpool coming to park the bus - that's just not in their mentality. So I can see it being an open game, which will suit us.'
United need to be quick in transition to spring Rashford and Anthony Martial (left) into space
It's certainly true that United have looked pretty clueless when confronted with packed opposition ranks this season, all sideways passing and pedestrian build-up.
They will hope Liverpool's attacking opens up spaces they can exploit with the speed of their forward line but it depends on how quickly they can transition from defence to attack.
It would be beneficial for Solskjaer to show the players a tape of the Chelsea win when Rashford, Martial et al tore the Blues to shreds, especially in the second-half.
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