Preview: Manchester United vs Liverpool – The unfriendly friendly

by Tom Parker

Manchester United take on bitter rivals Liverpool in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium in the final of the International Champions Cup tonight in a game that should be billed as an ‘unfriendly friendly’.

Both United, unbeaten so far under new boss Louis van Gaal, and Liverpool will be itching to get one over on each other ahead of the start of the new season, with the winner likely to gain an immeasurable amount of confidence ahead of the 2014/15 campaign.

Manchester United team news

The Reds booked their place in the final with a convincing 3-1 victory over a relatively strong Real Madrid side which came off the back of victories against LA Galaxy, Roma and Inter Milan, in what has been an excellent pre-season under Van Gaal.

Tyler Blackett, Darren Fletcher and Ashley Young impressed in United’s last outing with the latter currently enjoying a re-birth as a wing back. The former Villa man capped a fine team goal with a low finish against Madrid on Saturday and is likely to start again against Liverpool.

Chris Smalling is again likely to miss out through the minor injury which kept him out against Madrid while Rafael is definitely out as is Danny Welbeck through another knee complaint. Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney could all play the full 90 in United’s final fixture in the States.

Liverpool team news

A comfortable 2-0 win over a poor AC Milan side saw Liverpool progress to the Miami show piece and the Merseyside have improved throughout pre-season, despite the absence of Luis Suarez after a protracted move to Barcelona eventually went through.

Liverpool have so far recorded a victory on penalties against Manchester City and a win in normal time over Olympiacos.

New signings Rickie Lambert, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic are avaliable but Saints duo Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana will miss out. A pacy front three of Sterling, Sturridge and youngster Jordon Ibe could cause United’s defence problems.

Key players

Darren Fletcher seems to be a man on a mission to make up for lost time following career-threatening bowel illness. The 30-year-old is on his first pre-season in three years and has been a commanding, mature presence in the centre of the park.

Sturridge comes into the new season off the back of a breakthrough eighteen months since he moved to Liverpool. The England international scored 21 times in the league last season but more is expected this campaign as he is now seen as the main man in the wake of Suarez’s departure.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool

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