RELATIVE STRENGTHS OF THE REDS

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The Independent Online
Manchester v Liverpool

United

DEFENCE 8/10

With three of the four best full-backs in Britain and commanding centre- backs it was a mystery why the defence looked so disjointed at the start of the season, but two goals conceded in their last six games suggests a tightening of the screws. If all else fails there is Schmeichel.

MIDFIELD 8/10

Cruyff and Poborsky have yet to settle and so has the manager's mind as to which players comprise his best unit. The absence of Keane, who was outstanding in the FA Cup final, could be important although the blossoming of Beckham from a peripheral to central figure is a huge compensation.

FORWARDS 9/10

Cantona, alone, is worth a mark of nine, and for much of last season, as Cole's confidence dripped away, that was precisely what he was. The Frenchman has been short of his imperious best to date but the prospect of his perceptiveness and Solskjaer's speed is exciting.

DEFENCE 8/10

At times they look like they could withstand an avalanche, at others they look shockingly frail. The opening minutes of the FA Cup final were awful for the back five, although Matteo has proved to be a steadying influence. Much will depend on how they contrive to nullify Cantona.

MIDFIELD 9/10

Better balanced with Thomas' inclusion as a combination of Barnes and Redknapp denied the department pace and cultivated the inclination to pass for passing's sake. More direct, they no longer allow teams to build defences before trying to find the final ball. With McManaman anything is possible.

FORWARDS 8/10

Berger has provided what Collymore was bought for: speed, unpredictability and the skill to pass an opponent. Paradoxically, Collymore who will play in Fowler's absence, has shown a greater urgency since the Czech's arrival.

Guy Hodgson

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