Liverpool vs Manchester United: Seven things we should expect at Anfield on Sunday

Liverpool must attack; no change for United; Gerrard to return

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Brendan Rodgers' team have fought their way back into Champions League contention playing in an attacking, high-tempo 3-4-2-1 formation.

The game will be crucial to the prospects of both sides for next season, who are separated by just two points. Defeat for Liverpool could see Manchester United open up a five point gap and with only eight matches to follow after this game, that may be a step too far.

Liverpool tried to be defensive and cautious at the start of the season as Brendan Rodgers struggled to find his best team in the wake of Luis Suarez leaving the club. Now he has found his best team, a team full of attacking verve and danger, even if they didn't show it at Swansea, Rodgers should not be tempted to err on the side of caution in the hope of keeping Manchester United contained.

The strength of Louis van Gaal's team lays with the attackers, their defence is a source of weakness, especially the centre-backs. Rodgers should not hand the visitors the initiative by starting slowly.


That being said, Rodgers should return his veteran captain Steven Gerrard into the midfield. Joe Allen has impressed in the 34-year-old's absence but Gerrard has vast experience in games of this magnitude and should start.

The former England skipper has shown his age at times this season but he has been most vulnerable when playing in a holding role against teams who attack with pace. Although United showed that against Spurs - and will try to do so again at Anfield - generally this season they have played a slower, more direct game.

Liverpool will want to monopolise possession and Gerrard is perfect at that.

Brendan Rodgers should return Steven Gerrard to the starting XI


The England striker has not looked himself since returning from injury, with just three goals in 12 games since New Year's Eve.

But Sturridge proved last season that he loves the biggest stage, scoring five goals in games against United, Everton and Arsenal, as well winning a crucial penalty at Old Trafford.

United's defence was never questioned by a terrible Tottenham performance but they can be expected to face stiff questions by the Reds. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are far from the most secure centre-back partnership in the division, prone to lapses in concentration and errors in judgement.

Sturridge has no better time to score just his second goal in a month.


When the two clubs last met Liverpool were absolutely stuck in the mire. Three of their back five from that day will not start and the Reds will be all the better for it.

Brad Jones was thrust into the game at the expense of Simon Mignolet - who is now in brilliant form - playing his first Premier League match since 16 March, 2013 (a game Liverpool lost 3-1). The Australian was awful and was blamed for two goals.

Glen Johnson has not started a Premier League game since, although he has been injured for a portion of that, and doesn't fit in with Rodgers' new system, while £20m summer signing Dejan Lovren is now out of the team and only plays when needed.

Even Alberto Moreno, taken off after 68mins in the game, plays a much different role now as a wing-back and has looked much better.

Liverpool had some great chances at Old Trafford but were let down by a soft defence - don't expect the same this time.


Manchester United produced their best performance of the season against Spurs on Sunday but things are already becoming complicated for Van Gaal.

British record signing Angel Di Maria is back from suspension and Robin van Persie and Luke Shaw back from injury.

Van Gaal may be tempted to put those three back into his starting line-up but he should stick with the team that played so well against Spurs. It's a brave move to leave out £59.7million player in one of the biggest games of the season, but Di Maria's performances have not warranted it. Juan Mata was sensational against Spurs and deserves to keep his place.

United still have to face Manchester City (h), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h) this season, while Liverpool still have trips to the Emirates and Stamford Bridge.

It could be argued that the Reds have a slightly easier run in than their rivals, so the Dutchman will need to decide if it is worth the risk going for three points.

Angel Di Maria shouldn't play just because of his record price tag - he is out of form


No player has performed better, bar David De Gea, under his new manager than Ashley Young. The winger was snubbed by Roy Hodgson for his England squad on Thursday but was fully deserving of a call - especially as Andros Townsend managed to make it into the 23.

Young will be hugely important for United in this game because he is the one attacking player who has genuine pace. With Liverpool likely to continue in their 3-4-2-1 formation, Young could find himself with plenty of room to attack 21-year-old Emre Can.

The German has been great in his first season at the club and will be a real star in the future. But Eden Hazard proved in the Capital One Cup semi-final that he can be tempted into making silly fouls and be drawn out of position if the movement is clever enough.

Young may get even more room on the left if Rodgers continues with Raheem Sterling as a right wing-back, as he has done in recent games.


United fans saw far fewer long balls (or long passes) to the head of Marouane Fellaini against Tottenham, where he won seven of his 12 aerial battles.

But should United employ the tactic against Liverpool, they will come up against one of the better players in the Premier League at defending the high ball. Martin Skrtel has won 91 aerial duels this season, 69.5 per cent, compared to just 58 per cent (66) for Fellaini.

The Slovakian defender, along with defensive colleagues Mamadou Sakho and Emre Can, have their weak spots, but fronting up to the physicality of the Belgian should not be one of them.