Ahead of Manchester United’s Anfield showdown against Liverpool today, there are a couple of key areas that Erik ten Hag’s men can exploit.
Liverpool have had a right-sided bias for years, but since the departure of Sadio Mane, that bias has been exacerbated.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has, in the past, been a player Jurgen Klopp could afford to give attacking freedom to, such has been his output.
But lately the trade-off has been far from worthwhile for Liverpool and the fullback’s forays forward have become an obvious weakness.
United will expect to have less possession at Anfield, but allowing Liverpool to bring their fullbacks high up the pitch is exactly what will give the Red Devils the advantage.
Using them as pressing triggers once they reach the final third will make for an easy ball into the path of United’s wingers, with Rashford in particular having the pace to reap the rewards.
As was seen in the Old Trafford fixture, Alexander-Arnold’s relationship with the right-sided centre back is particularly vulnerable, and that is a channel that is primed for Rashford to exploit, even in settled possession.
The forward has improved in many aspects this season, including his close control. It is this skill that will help United take advantage of this weakness regularly.
Liverpool’s overly zealous fullbacks are not their only weakness.
It is common knowledge that Jurgen Klopp’s heavy metal midfield has started to slow down this season and this is a vulnerability that Man United are very well set up to exploit.
When facing tight midfield trios, Ten Hag often responds by having his own midfielders fan out.
Thanks to the (somewhat unexpectedly) excellent passing range of Casemiro, United are able to bypass opposition midfields aiming to deny the middle of the park.
It is not just Casemiro who can do this – Lisandro Martinez is capable of finding these angled line-breaking passes as well.
What is key is the positioning of unexpected players in the half spaces. Taking out an entire midfield with one swift, vertical pass has become a hallmark of this United side.
And with Liverpool’s own midfield lacking the dynamism it once had, they will struggle to recover.
Should United make frequent use of these direct passes behind the midfield, the attackers need only maintain a good tempo to create dangerous attacking opportunities.
While it is made up of individually good players, Liverpool’s defence is an incredibly passive one. A good tempo in the final third will hurt Jurgen Klopp’s men and help Manchester United create chances.
Anfield is never easy, but there is every reason to think that the points are there to be won.
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