It’s been an interesting summer to be a Manchester United fan. While Manchester City have crowed about their title win, as well they might, you might be forgiven for thinking Liverpool also finished above Jose Mourinho’s team last season.
Certainly that’s the impression you would get considering the generous praise heaped on Jurgen Klopp after consecutive fourth place finishes.
There is no doubting that Liverpool should progress this season after two underwhelming, trophy less campaigns under the German. After all, he inherited a team that not only finished second in 2014, they also came within a Steven Gerrard slip of winning the title.
And the hype continues. Caught Offside ran a blog with a “who would get in to a combined side” feature and as you will see, Liverpool players feature heavily. That inspired Liverpool website Empire Of The Kop to write their own version and they claimed that only Alexis Sanchez would get into their team.
We decided to take a fairer, balanced look at the combined sides and see who would come out on top.
In goal, well, it seems like a no-brainer. David De Gea is widely considered to be the best goalkeeper in the world. He has a Premier League winner’s medal to his name and also finished above Liverpool last season.
At right back it’s a tough one. Trent Alexander Arnold is the latest homegrown player to bloom at Anfield since Jon Flanagan, who Liverpool fans once compared to Brazil legend Cafu. That perhaps tells you a little about the judgement of Liverpool fans; however, we do think their current right back has great potential. There’s no doubting that United could improve at right back, but this is a side by side comparison. Valencia had a good season last season as United finished two places above Liverpool in the league, drew at Anfield and comfortably won at Old Trafford, restricting Klopp’s side to a single shot on target. Therefore Valencia gets the nod.
In the centre of defence there’s no denying United are extremely poor. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are derided by supporters while Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof have not started this season great. However, the alternative up at Merseyside is Dejan Lovren, who is more error ridden than any of United’s defenders. Virgil van Dijk arrived at Liverpool for a record fee but was part of the defence that was taken apart by schoolboy tactics by Jose Mourinho. As United finished two places above Liverpool in the league, drew at Anfield with a clean sheet and comfortably won at Old Trafford, restricting Klopp’s side to a single shot on target, you have to give the edge to United’s defenders – so we’ll go with Bailly and Smalling.
At left back Liverpool have the emerging Robertson who has done well. But Manchester United’s Ashley Young kept Mo Salah so quiet last season and given all we have heard about Salah having a better season than Ronaldo, it must have been quite some achievement for Young to make him look more like Dani Pacheco. Young gets the selection.
In midfield you can barely complain with Paul Pogba being an automatic selection. Anyone can see that Nemanja Matic would be selected in front of Jordan Henderson. So it becomes a toss-up between Keita, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Fred, Herrera, Fellaini or McTominay. It would be stupid to select Fred for the same reason as Liverpool’s new signings, so one has to go with an established pick. Of those names you are not left with a great choice but Ander Herrera is certainly more talented than former Newcastle midfielder Wijnaldum.
On the right hand side there is Mo Salah, the most obvious choice from Liverpool considering his goalscoring feats last season. However, is there an element of flat track bully about him? Salah was kept quiet in two games against United last season and when it mattered most, in the Champions League final, he fouled Sergio Ramos and injured himself, walking out of the match in the first half. Alexis Sanchez has struggled to settle at Old Trafford but does not shrink when the going gets tough. Even the Liverpool fans admit that Sanchez would get into their team so he gets our nod here.
As a target man who would you want in your team – Roberto Firmino or Romelu Lukaku? Lukaku scored one goal more than the Liverpool man last season, giving him the edge.
Finally, on the left, Liverpool’s main man is Sadio Mane. The former Southampton man is very quick, that can’t be denied, but is there much else to his game? If pushed you would surely go with one of the United pair of Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial. Either would get in front of Mane, but considering Rashford scored twice against Liverpool last season, he gets the nod here.
So the team as follows –
Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Young
Herrera, Matic, Pogba
Sanchez, Lukaku, Rashford
Whether it is a matter of pedigree in each player’s career, performance against each other, performance in the league table or big game attitude, there is no arguing with the conclusive team picked above.
Who knows? Maybe this season Liverpool will win a trophy (or two, like Jose Mourinho did in his first year at Old Trafford) to maybe squeeze one or two players into this combined side. Considering the money spent – you’d hope for their sake they do!