Few have been the times that these two colossal clubs of English football have come into a clash with lofty ambitions as of late, as Liverpool welcome Manchester United to the newly-renovated Anfield stadium on Monday night.
The Jürgen Klopp project and it’s suffocating press system has begun gaining some notable traction in the Premier League, in particularly in big games, whereas Man United and their array of expensive talent look to force their way back into prominence under new boss José Mourinho.
The match-up promises plenty, and in its lead-up, Fresh Football has sought to bring you a combined XI. Here’s how we’d line-up:
GK: David De Gea (Manchester United)
There won’t be many more straightforward choices to be made than including David De Gea, one of the best shot-stoppers in the world and, arguably, the main man between the sticks in Premier League football. Even if we weren’t to see him in such light, Simon Mignolet’s shaky past and new boy Loris Karius don’t offer us any great alternatives from Liverpool’s end.
RB: Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool)
Nathaniel Clyne’s Man United counterpart, Antonio Valencia, has gained his fair share of plaudits so far this season from a right back position, but his systematic nature in the final third, particularly his over-hit crosses, raises a few question marks. Meanwhile Clyne’s associative play makes him our preferred option, we’re not even sure Valencia, despite good form, is the best right back at his own club.
CB: Eric Bailly (Manchester United)
Among the trickiest of introductions to this combined XI is Eric Bailly, simply because Joël Matip has excelled so much in his short time in the Premier League as well. Whereas the latter might be better at reading the game, we think Bailly’s physicality, especially once his aggression is more refined, sees the Ivorian pip the ex-Schalke man.
CB: Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
As someone who can blend his ability to read the game, bring the ball out from defence and impose himself physically upon attackers, Smalling’s addition is a no-brainer. On his day, he’s one of the very best centre backs in the Premier League.
LB: Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
Alberto Moreno came to mind, who, based on his Liverpool career thus far, is enough to hand the left back slot to just about anyone else. Such is his unreliability that Klopp has chosen to deploy James Milner at left back, a successful invention in the meantime, but we’d prefer to go down the old-fashioned route and opt for a natural left back. It’s also Luke Shaw, by the way, so we’re in good hands.
CM: Daley Blind (Manchester United)
We’re striving for a team that makes sense, here, which in turn sees us scramble a little for a convincing midfielder to play deep in this combined XI. Although talented, Emre Can’s yet to leave his definitive stamp at Anfield, whereas his teammate, Jordan Henderson, is more box-to-box than deep-lying. The same goes for Ander Herrera at United, who’s come into the fold ahead of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger. We’re trusting the versatility of Daley Blind on this one, who’s put in exemplary displays at left back and centre back in the past.
CM: Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
He’s been fairly underwhelming since his blockbuster transfer from Juventus this summer, but it’d take a brave man to overlook his talent in order to shut him out of this combined XI. We wouldn’t dare.
RM: Sadio Mané (Liverpool)
At last, some more Merseyside-based presence, and it goes to their new acquisition. Many an eyebrow was raised at the £34 million price tag of Sadio Mané when joining from Southampton, but the Senegalese winger has been quick to allay any fears and become an instant hit at Anfield. The 24-year-old provides a constant threat with his movement in behind, whereas his trickery and pace make him a real handful across the attacking third.
AM: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
The Brazilian can offer the odd irritation with his relentless attempts at goal from range, but when it works, there’s little left to do but admire. Coutinho’s general low centre of gravity coupled with his dribbling ability and flair are the real reasons why we think he’s best suited to the free role in attacking midfield, however.
LM: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United)
Up against the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, our preference is to go with Henrikh Mkhitaryan on this one. Being quick on the turn, the Armenian is lethal in transition, just as he was in his storming 2015/16 season with Borussia Dortmund prior to his transfer to Manchester United. We’re yet to see the versatile wide man exemplify the same prowess at Old Trafford, but should he be given the chance, it’d be no surprise to see him star.
ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United)
Even with Rashford and Martial in the equation, Daniel Sturridge might well serve as the biggest opposition to Zlatan Ibrahimovic at striker. With both representing different profiles of strikers, this one comes down to consistency, and almost by default, Sturridge’s injury prone history and mix-and-match attendance when fit under Klopp sees Ibrahimovic pip him. Additionally, the Swede’s hold-up play and playmaking ability is quite the sight when coupled with aforementioned runners in the attacking third.