Top Eleven managers watching this weekend’s clash between Manchester United and Liverpool will likely see two very different tactical set-ups: Jurgen Klopp’s renowned high-intensity Gegenpressing and Louis van Gaal’s methodical possession football.
Intriguingly, the match sees the two men reignite their rivalry from when they managers in Germany, van Gaal at Bayern Munich and Klopp at Borussia Dortmund.
But who would make it into a combined Liverpool FC – Manchester United 11, and which tactics would you use?
Here at Top Eleven, we’ve had our say…
Perhaps appropriately, the preferred system for our combined Liverpool-Manchester United 11 would be a compromise between the two managers’ styles.
As the team has a high level of technical ability but lacks true pace on the wings, we would prioritise possession football.
However, we would seek to combine this with high-intensity pressing, followed by quick counter-attacks when the ball is won high up the field, utilising the incisive creative abilities of Wayne Rooney, Philippe Coutinho and Juan Mata. As 20% of goals scored in the Champions League last year were from counter attacks, it would be a mistake not to try to include some…
First off, David De Gea would start in goal. His consistent form over the past two seasons has put him right up with the best goalies in the world. He is also good with the ball at his feet, ideal for possession football.
In central defence, Chris Smalling and Martin Skrtel would be preferred due to their good form and physicality. They are also mobile enough to deal with pacy forwards.
They would be flanked on either side by two Liverpool players, Alberto Moreno, at left back, and Nathanial Clyne, at right back. They were picked for their attacking ability and speed down the wings. If Luke Shaw were fit, he would probably have had the edge for the left back slot.
Morgan Schneiderlin would be called in to aid with the defensive work in midfield, protecting the two centre backs. This is particularly important when the two full-backs are marauding further up the pitch, and he might be required to slot in almost as a third central defender, reminiscent of Barcelona’s deployment of Sergio Busquets during the Guardiola era. The Frenchman is in excellent form this year, demonstrated by United’s improved win ratio when he is in the team. He provides calmness, good passing ability and great defensive awareness.
Alongside Schneiderlin, Henderson would operate in a slightly more advanced position, contributing his passing ability and dynamism to the attacking play, while providing further cover when the team is out of possession.
Perhaps the most controversial choice, Mata and Coutinho are asked to play in wide positions, though they are more renowned for their exploits in central attacking-midfield.
Chosen for their creative abilities, this system allows them to drift into central areas and create chances for the two experienced front men. The set-up also allows them to cut inside and take shots on goal with their favoured left and right foot, respectively. As wingbacks, Moreno and Clyne provide the necessary balance, with width and speed down the flanks.
Despite his inconsistent form this year, Rooney is chosen in the ‘number 10’ position. Playing in this deeper role allows the United forward to participate more in the build up in midfield, in addition to providing support for the most advanced forward, Christian Benteke. Benteke is expected to contribute goals, using his excellent shooting and heading ability to convert chances provided by his teammates.
Bench: Mignolet, Blind, Young, Schweinsteiger, Llalana, Martial
On the bench, Simon Mignolet would get the nod as second-choice goalkeeper.
The rest of the substitutes have been chosen largely for their versatility. Blind is comfortable in central defence, at left back and in defensive midfield. Young can play in either fullback position and in either of the more advanced wing roles. Adam Llalana can operate on either wing, his entrance onto the field perhaps allowing either Coutinho or Mata to switch to a more central position. Similarly, Martial can provide pace on either wing and he can also play as an out and out ‘number 9’.
Bastian Schweinsteiger has been selected to be on the bench for his experience and his ability to execute excellent possession football as well as to break up opposition attacks, useful when the team has a lead to protect.
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