Ahead of gameweek 30, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United sit in second-place and are just two points above Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who go head-to-head with one another on Saturday afternoon at Old Trafford.
Without a doubt, both managers will be looking to play it safe as well as win bragging rights at the same time, given that a potential second-place finish in the league would imply a huge progress for either club.
It’s time to look at the three important battles that could help to decide the fate of this huge fixture…
Romelu Lukaku vs Virgil Van Dijk
After showing in recent weeks that he can help the team out when it comes to the build-up play of the attack, Romelu Lukaku will be looking to continue to do what he does best up front as the lone striker. Currently on 22 goals and six assists in all competitions, the Belgian international has had a very good season at a personal level despite playing in a side that is not based on an attacking system and that has no natural wingers.
Lukaku will be in for a tough and very physical duel against Virgil Van Dijk, who is considered as Liverpool’s best centre-back as well as one of the best defenders within the league. Since moving to Anfield during the January transfer window, the former Celtic and Southampton ace has improved Jurgen Klopp’s side defensively and offensively, from preventing less goal-scoring chances to showing his abilities on the ball.
Mohamed Salah vs Ashley Young
It’s no secret that Liverpool’s most effective and influential player in the final third is none other than the winger in Mohamed Salah, an individual that was sold by Mourinho during his time at Chelsea but is now playing his best football in years under Klopp. Some still believe that the 25-year-old has to produce a massive performance at Old Trafford to show his old manager that he was wrong to sell him at the time, but others think that his contribution of 24 league goals in 26 appearances is more than enough to silence his critics.
Salah has been offering the perfect combination of creativity and pace from the right flank, making him the perfect attacking outlet that was always going to thrive in Klopp’s style of play. The Egyptian would potentially be going up against Ashley Young, who is preferred in the left-back role over Luke Shaw by the manager. Given that the visitors will be in full of energy and will be pressing the hosts high up the pitch, Young will need to make sure that he is not caught out of position and is also composed in one v one situations with Salah.
Paul Pogba vs Emre Can
The last couple of weeks have not been good for Paul Pogba on and off the pitch, where it seemed like there was tension growing between himself and the manager to producing a few unconvincing performances. However, a huge display against long-term rivals Liverpool would surely make the Manchester United supporters forget about the Frenchman’s lack of contribution and defensive discipline in recent fixtures. Within Mourinho’s system, Pogba is seen as the heartbeat of the team and the main creator in midfield.
On the other, for Liverpool, Emre Can will be playing as a box-to-box midfielder and will be hoping that his abilities on both sides of the pitch helps his team to go on to win the fixture. The 24-year-old has evidently shown this season that he has the intelligence to defensively be in the right place at the right time as well as chip in with a few goals and assists when his side are in need of a midfielder that makes constant late drives into the penalty box. Can is starting to establish himself as one of the complete midfielders in the league.