One of the biggest fixtures on the Premier League calendar every year takes place at Old Trafford today as Manchester United play host to Liverpool.
Both sides experienced surprise defeats before the international break as United blew a 1-0 lead to lose at Swansea City, while Liverpool were thrashed 3-0 at home by West Ham United.
Louis van Gaal’s side are in much better shape with Phil Jones the only confirmed absentee, while Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is without the suspended Philippe Coutinho, injured Daniel Sturridge and Joe Allen.
United could even welcome back David de Gea for the first time this season after signing a new contract on Friday.
De Gea was key in United’s 3-0 victory in this fixture last December, making nine saves, a number of them one-on-one and spectacular.
Here are the three players who could prove vital for United if they’re to pick up the three points in today’s much-anticipated Premier League game against Liverpool:
Van Gaal deploys Juan Mata out on the right wing in his 4-2-3-1 formation and that means he will be up against the inexperienced Joe Gomez today.
The 18-year-old Liverpool left-back hasn’t been too comfortable in his first four Premier League games since moving from Charlton Athletic in the summer. Notably, he has collected three yellow cards.
Mata should certainly be able to give the teenager a torrid time down that wing, whether it’s taking on Gomez or cutting inside.. One should expect the Spaniard to be involved in a lot of goalscoring opportunities today – whether by firing shots in on goal himself or creating them.
He likes to drift inside which will cause Gomez problems as the Liverpool defender will also have to be careful of Matteo Darmian’s overlapping runs from right-back. Support will be needed and if Jordon Ibe is on the left wing for the visitors, he’s not the best defensively.
On the opposite flank, United have a goalscoring threat in Memphis Depay. While the Netherlands international is yet to register a Premier League goal in his opening four matches, there’s no doubt in the threat he possesses.
Only Alexis Senchez (20) has had more shots on goal than Depay (16) of players who have yet to score in the Premier League this season.
The 21-year-old makes some very clever runs beyond the defence for the likes of Mata, Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney to play him in. He likes running in between the right-back and central defender to get in on goal.
Depay’s finishing has let him down so far but it’s only a matter of time before he opens his account in England. Nathaniel Clyne is Liverpool’s right-back and inside of him is Martin Škrtel who isn’t the quickest.
Adnan Januzaj’s loan move to Borussia Dortmund suggests that Ander Herrera is going to be the number 10 for United for the majority of the season. The Spaniard has been very impressive in a number of games since he moved last summer, but he has not always had the opportunities or a long run in the first team.
Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen (potentially) missing out for Liverpool could cause them problems in midfield today with Emre Can likely to partner Lucas and James Milner in Rodgers’ central midfield three.
Lucas Leiva may be given the duty of sitting on Herrera and the Brazilian is very good at keeping opponents quiet. That, however, could allow Mata to find space when he drifts inside.
Herrera is both a playmaker and a goalscoring threat. The midfielder gets himself into goalscoring positions and as he showed versus Club Brugge in their UEFA Champions League qualifier, he can also score from long range.