CHASING FIRST WIN

Man United v Liverpool is a fascinating contest

Both sides are looking for their first win of the season. Training has been difficult for Liverpool this week with injuries mounting up.

In Summary

• Klopp said: “The week was crazy. It was like we had a witch in the building. Every day somebody else pulled out for the craziest reasons.”

• After the disastrous thrashing by Brentford, Ten Hag called the players in early each day and started by playing videos of Liverpool, picking apart their strategies and player positions during each match they have played so far.

Manchester United's Anthony Elanga in action with Liverpool's Andrew Robertson
Manchester United's Anthony Elanga in action with Liverpool's Andrew Robertson
Image: FILE

Manchester United’s fascinating home game on Monday night pits them against a Liverpool side where manager Jurgen Klopp has problems which almost match those of Erik Ten Hag.

Both sides are looking for their first win of the season. Training has been difficult for Liverpool this week with injuries mounting up. Klopp said: “The week was crazy. It was like we had a witch in the building. Every day somebody else pulled out for the craziest reasons.”

We were all surprised when Klopp introduced Nat Phillips to play alongside Virgil van Dijk against Palace. He did well after Joe Gomez picked up an injury in training and could only play off the bench in the second half.

Joel Matip will be out for another couple of weeks and Ibrahima Konate is likely to be out for a while longer. Trent Alexander-Arnold is not in particularly good form but I understand both he and Andy Robertson will play against United with Kostas Tsimikas coming off the bench.

Klopp is aware that Cristiano Ronaldo will likely play for United despite all the problems surrounding him and Van Dijk will be given the job of containing the Portuguese, particularly in the air.

In midfield, Harvey Elliott was very good against Palace and he will retain his place. However, Naby Keita is pressing for a starting role and he is likely to replace James Milner for either the whole match or at least part of it.

Klopp, like Ten Hag, has problems in attack. Mo Salah and Luis Diaz will certainly start but Diogo Jota’s hamstring injury rules him out and Darwin Nunez’s red card means he misses the next three matches, a positive for United.

Liverpool’s medical team have been working hard this week to get Bobby Firmino fit so they have a strong attacking three against United’s fragile defence.

The toxic atmosphere spilled over to Manchester United’s training camp again this week. After the disastrous thrashing by Brentford, Ten Hag called the players in early each day and started by playing videos of Liverpool, picking apart their strategies and player positions during each match they have played so far.

Ten Hag’s problem is that he does not know and cannot guess accurately how Liverpool will line up because of the injuries at Anfield. One thing is sure, Ten Hag was horrified at how new Ajax £50million signing Lisandro Martinez was turned inside out by Brentford and his 5ft 9in frame was bullied by the opposition forwards.

Ten Hag knows that playing him against Diaz could be disastrous and it is his biggest problem after his weak attacking line. That is one reason Ten Hag is thankful Nunez will not be on the pitch. However, Raphael Varane is being pencilled in to bring stability to the backline.

Varane is viewed as the best defender at the club and despite his injury problems this season, he could be the answer to some of United’s defensive problems. United have a far better record with him in the team.

Despite Varane’s lack of fitness and Martinez’s poor performance, Ten Hag is considering dropping Harry Maguire and making Varane and Martinez his two central defenders. However, I know for sure that Ten Hag is an admirer of Maguire and is considering this option very carefully.

With the towering presence of Van Dijk in the Liverpool defence, Ten Hag has to improve his midfield and the quality of balls fed into the Liverpool penalty area. Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen, who will be moved forward in a more attacking role, will be crucial in placing precise balls from deep play into the Liverpool backline which Ronaldo thrives on.

Fred is fast but constantly being outplayed and Scott McTominay is below form. Jadon Sancho will be important for United and he needs to feed balls to Marcus Rashford and Ronaldo and this is the way they have trained this week… United are strong on the counter-attack.

They need to be patient and organised which has been another main aspect of training. They must defend as a unit and not play as individuals, which often happens. Without doubt, United’s best chance is to drive at pace from the counter-attack…they are very good at it and Liverpool will be vulnerable.

Gerrard has big problems in defence

I contacted Aston Villa regarding the injury to Diego Carlos and the news is not good. Carlos, who joined Villa from Sevilla for £26million has ruptured his Achilles tendon. He left Villa Park on crutches and had an MRI scan on Monday, which revealed the damage.

Surgery is inevitable and Carlos could be out of action for six months. Manager Steven Gerrard has a problem at the back with Kortney Hause also on the injury list which means he has only three senior centre halves in contention: Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and Calum Chambers. Gerrard has expressed that he is “extremely worried” about the injuries at the club.

Man City put Silva out of Barca’s reach

Manchester City have come up with the perfect way of keeping their star players. Barcelona have been trying to unsettle Bernardo Silva so they can bid for him.

Knowing that Barca have financial problems, City have placed a value of £80million on the midfielder which the Spanish giants could not possibly afford to pay. City travel to Barcelona to play a charity friendly this coming week and Silva will play to demonstrate that he is very much a part of Pep Guardiola’s starting eleven.

Chelsea still want Everton’s Gordon

Chelsea are going to review their offer for Everton midfielder Anthony Gordon despite being rejected twice by the Toffees management. Everton manager Frank Lampard admits he must not lose Gordon, who is essential to his plans and with the season just beginning — results are not going their way.

I understand that the only way Gordon could end up at Stamford Bridge is through a possible deal which would involve bringing in two Chelsea players: Billy Gilmour and Armando Broja. Newcastle and Tottenham made approaches for Gordon a month ago but Everton offered him a new improved contract which has not been signed as yet.

Leicester’s Soumare heading to France

Leicester midfielder Boubakary Soumare is considering a possible move to French club AS Monaco. Rumours have been flying around Leicester that he could go and coach Brendan Rogers has omitted him from starting this season despite playing him in pre-season friendlies.

The 22-year-old signed from LOSC Lille in a £17million deal last year and has featured in 19 Premier League games with 12 starts but has failed to impress with only one assist to his name and also played in six Europa League matches.

Rogers commented: “There’s an opportunity that has come that interests him. It’s only right that if he’s not going to be here, we have to look at other players in that position during the transfer window.”

 

Moyes desperate to strengthen defence

After losing 1-0 to Nottingham Forest last weekend, West Ham have signed German centre-back Thilo Kehrer from Paris Saint-Germain. The Hammers have also offered £12m for Chelsea left-back Emerson Palmieri.

David Moyes wants to strengthen his defence and is lacking in the central area because of the ankle injury to Moroccan Nayef Aguerd, who could be out for eight weeks. Angelo Ogbonna is working with the medical team and assistants to recover from a knee injury and hopes to be back soon. Kehrer has won 20 caps for Germany and can operate as a defensive midfielder and also centre back.

As I write this column, I am told he could be at West Ham in time for Sunday’s home match against Brighton. Moyes has been forced to pair Kurt Zouma and 22-year-old Ben Johnson for their first two games but the manager is not convinced it is the solution to his defensive problems.

 

Werner and Lukaku make winning starts

Timo Werner scored in his first game for RB Leipzig upon his return to the Bundesliga. Romelu Lukaku also had a good game and scored for Inter Milan during his first game after in his second spell in the Italian Serie ‘A’.

It is interesting that they couldn’t score in the Premier League with any certainty and yet they hit the ground running in returning to their roots. What this proves conclusively is that the Premier League is a far tougher test than other European leagues.

Opinion: Managers should be able to comment on refs

It always amazes me that players and managers are not allowed to comment on the conduct and quality of referees after a match. Thomas Tuchel is the latest to face possible financial penalties and a touchline ban for saying he believes Anthony Taylor should not be allowed to referee any more Chelsea matches after some highly-controversial decisions.

The FA takes a very dim view of a manager expressing his thoughts. Two things come to mind in my view…firstly in the UK, we have a constitution which champions freedom of speech so who are the FA to overrule a basic right and secondly, isn’t it interesting that Tuchel’s view has been supported by more than a hundred thousand people who have signed a petition which carries the same message?

 

Jokes of the week…(sorry United fans)

The fans’ favourite joke being told this week (with apologies to Manchester United fans)…Brentford coach Thomas Frank is relieved that his striker Ivan Toney did not get on the score sheet in their 4-0 win over Manchester United. If he had, United would have made a bid for him by Monday morning!

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