We may still be in October, but Manchester United’s visit to Anfield already feels like a season-defining encounter.
Jose Mourinho‘s side go into this game three points adrift of Liverpool: a win could see Man United move up to third; a loss, on the other hand, would leave them six points adrift of fourth spot. Very rarely has a game swung on such a decisive pendulum so early on in the season.
It goes without saying, then, that Mourinho needs to pick his strongest XI for the clash with Jurgen Klopp’s side. The midfield trio of Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba and Juan Mata – the same triumvirate that decimated Leicester City two weeks ago – ought to make a reappearance, whilst Luke Shaw – now fit after three weeks on the sidelines – and Antonio Valencia occupy the full-back role.
Inspecting this potential XI, you’re probably wondering: “Where on earth is Rashford?”
Good question. After all, the 18-year-old – despite only bursting onto the scene in late February – has already demonstrated an aptitude for wreaking havoc on the biggest of stages. His debut against Arsenal springs to mind, as does his performance at the Etihad last season, alongside his rip-roaring display during the FA Cup final.
However, in this particular context, Rashford’s involvement as a super-sub makes far more sense. Just think back to last season’s visit to Anfield in the Europa League. The 18-year-old was thrown in from the start, playing as a lone striker before moving to the left hand side. He was, like most of Louis van Gaal‘s side that evening, hounded out by a tenacious, unrelenting Klopp-driven pressing game.
Throwing him on with 20 minutes to go, with Liverpool tiring, could prove to be an effective move in what is already a must-win game for Mourinho.