Mourinho issues rallying call to the twelfth man ahead of season-defining clash
Despite his unprecedented success, José Mourinho still had plenty to prove when he took over the vacant Manchester United hot-seat. However, an indifferent start soon had people questioning whether or not he still had that ‘special’ magic that made him one of the most revered managers on the planet.
One of Mourinho’s greatest strengths was always his ability to deflect attention away from his players and that twinkle in his eye certainly seems to have returned, following a run of nine successive victories.
He was quick to question the involvement of the Old Trafford crowd, in his post-match interview, following the 1st leg EFL Cup semi-final tie with the Tigers, effectively guaranteeing that they would be much more vociferous when Liverpool step out at the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday.
Jürgen Klopp knows all about Mourinho’s mind games but the Liverpool boss will be full of confidence that his side can get a positive result, bearing in mind that they are the Premier League’s top scorers. If they can, it will certainly bode well for the remainder of the season.
Goal projections – Man Utd 1.61 Liverpool 1.18
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Team news & predicted starting line-ups for Man Utd v Liverpool
Both sides are expected to line-up in a 4-3-3 formation and it’s the battle in the middle of the park that could prove decisive. The two sides cancelled each other out in a dour stalemate at Anfield earlier in the season but both managers are expected to be far more positive on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney, who is just one goal away from becoming Manchester United’s all-time record goalscorer, might have to settle for a place on the bench, while both sides are affected to varying degrees by the AFCON departures.
Man Utd fantasy player to watch
Paul Pogba thundered a terrific free-kick against the post during Wednesday’s 2-0 EFL Cup 1st leg victory over Hull City. The world’s most expensive player has certainly had his fair share of bad luck this season, with only one player, Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne, having had more attempts that have hit the woodwork in the Premier League during the 2016/17 campaign.
The French international really seems to finding his feet now and if he can produce another impressive showing, it could swing this season-defining clash in United’s favour.
Man Utd team news
Zlatan Ibrahimović is expected to shake-off the illness that ruled him out of Tuesday’s cup tie but this game might come too soon for Luke Shaw and Marcus Rojo, who are both struggling with injuries.
Anthony Martial is in-line for a recall, after missing out on a starting spot against Hull.
Eric Bailly is away at the African Cup of Nations.
Predicted Man Utd starting XI (vs Liverpool)
Liverpool fantasy player to watch
Jordan Henderson is a player that divides opinion. His workmanlike approach is commendable, though, and no other player has averaged more passes per game in the Premier League this season.
He’s expected to shake off a heel injury to take his place in the line-up and will then be tasked with shackling the emerging menace that is Paul Pogba.
Liverpool team news
Sadio Mané, who is away on AFCON duty with Senegal, is a big loss for the visitors but the pain is eased somewhat by the return to fitness of key playmaker Philippe Coutinho, their highest rated player this season on WhoScored.
Klopp is optimistic that Joël Matip, James Milner and Jordan Henderson will all have recovered from their recent niggles, to take their place in his match-day squad.
Predicted Liverpool starting XI (vs Man Utd)
Mourinho has a fantastic record against Liverpool in the league that reads eight wins, two draws and two losses. This will be the first time that he has faced them on home soil as Manchester United manager, though.
Can the Old Trafford crowd act as that invaluable twelfth man, to help him add to that enviable record?