Gary Neville has been busy at Sky Sports explaining the key battles ahead of Manchester United’s crucial visit to Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
Whilst the fixture is always one of the main games of the season for both clubs, this season it takes on even more importance given both sides are chasing a spot in next season’s Champions League.
In years gone by, United and Liverpool have had quite a gap between them in the league and a defeat for United will be a blow and will move Liverpool ahead into fourth place and Neville believes the opening exchanges of the game will be key.
“The most fascinating thing for me will be the first 15 or 20 minutes when Van Gaal asks the centre-backs to split and for Michael Carrick to go and get the ball. Liverpool will be pressing high and the crowd will be up. Can United get out, will they get dispossessed? I always felt the first 20 minutes was defining at Anfield. You have to get through it.”
United have started slowly in several games of late, regularly giving away sloppy set-pieces, even against Tottenham last week, United were slow for the first five minutes, something they can’t afford at Anfield. Neville also believes the midfield battle will be key, with Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini in good form as are Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen for the opposition.
“Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen will be interesting in midfield. How will they play against Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini if they play? How will United cut off those little pockets for the passes into Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho? There are so many things happening during this match for Liverpool and United to contend with.
“The biggest thing will be that United will get put under immense pressure in the first 20 minutes and they like to play with a controlled tempo out from the back with the defence splitting. I’m not quite convinced by that as a strategy for winning at Anfield because it’s never worked for United. We couldn’t do it when we were at the top of the league so to think that we’re going to do it on Sunday would be a bit of a mistake.
United went down 1-0 at Anfield last season and their record over the last five seasons has been poor compared to the five years before that, but with so much to play, supporters will hope the team put in a performance similar to the one against Spurs from last weekend.