Anthony Martial

Key battles for Manchester United v. Liverpool

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The fact that that question is unquestionably valid, the visiting Reds a heavy favorite at the home of their longtime rival, says a lot, doesn’t it?

[ PL PREVIEW: Man Utd v. Liverpool ]

Let’s start with two 1v1 jobs and end with a battle that only involves two men and their bodies.

Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spring a midfield surprise to level tilted pitch

Make no mistake about it: Whatever midfield Jurgen Klopp trots onto the field at Old Trafford will be far superior to the one on the other side.

Manchester United boss Solskjaer was pretty optimistic when he pointed to this match as the “perfect” one to follow the Red Devils setback against Newcastle United, which seems bonkers but could serve as a proper showcase of why the club continues to back its former star striker.

So how will Solskjaer attempt to outfox the Reds without Paul Pogba as a midfield different maker? It seems likely we’ll see hard men at their hardest and most ornery in the forms of Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic, although Fred has seen plenty of playing time as of late.

Solskjaer might be best served by sitting back and trying to counter, but that doesn’t really vibe with Solskjaer’s overall “We’re Manchester United” mentality. So presuming we won’t see five at the back, it’s paramount that the boss finds a way to outduel (probably) three of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

It kinda recalls “The Dark Knight” when the Wayne Enterprises lawyer tries to blackmail the company via its bankrolling of Batman. Picture Morgan Freeman offering a smirking, “Good luck.”

Maguire hopes to defy his history versus Liverpool

Harry Maguire has a quality record against many teams, but Liverpool is not one of them.

The now-Red Devils’ center back managed a goal in Leicester City’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool last season, but that point was the first he’s won against Liverpool dating back to his time with Hull City. Maguire is 1W-1D-4L all-time against the Reds.

Maguire has seen Liverpool score eight goals in its last four matches against him, all while a member of Leicester, and the scorers are familiar: Salah (3), Mane (2),  Firmino (1), Jordan Henderson (1), Philippe Coutinho (1).

With the midfield mismatched in heavy favor of Liverpool, Maguire and Victor Lindelof will need to produce one of their finest displays.

Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka versus their fitness

With Paul Pogba and David De Gea out of the lineup, there’s no question that extra emphasis will be placed on United’s standout players when the ball is kicked on Sunday.

Make no mistake about: Along with Harry Maguire, Martial and Wan-Bissaka have been United’s best players when healthy this season.

Martial scored in United’s first two matches and picked up an assist in the third, where he also picked up a hamstring injury. His ability to make something out of nothing, particularly from distance, is a massive asset against a team as strong defensively as Liverpool. Wan-Bissaka missed his side’s loss at Newcastle United with tonsillitis.

Both would drastically affect which battles we also find key to this match, with their pace and prowess out wide the Red Devils’ most likely avenue to keeping Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson on their toes.

Martial’s return would be especially big. With Marcus Rashford on a terrible run of inconsistency, you don’t know what you’re going to get from the youngster. Martial can only help alleviate the burden.

Liverpool, Manchester United set for injury returns

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According to reports, both Manchester United and Liverpool are preparing to welcome back a number of important players from injury for their rivalry meeting at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Most notably, the Reds will reportedly have goalkeeper Alisson ready to take his place between the sticks, having missed nearly the entire season to this point with a calf injury. The Brazilian made it just 39 minutes into the Premier League opener against Norwich City before succumbing to injury, and Adrian has filled in since. While the Spaniard has played exceptionally well in his teammate’s stead, The Guardian reports that Alisson will take back his starting place no questions asked, having rigorously tested his injured leg with intensive training to make sure he is ready.

In addition to the Brazilian goalkeeper, Liverpool is also reportedly set to see Mohamed Salah prove fit to start despite his injury scare against Leicester City just before the international break.

For the hosts, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has received welcome news on a number of players prior to the matchup. Paul Pogba, who has missed three of the last four league matches and five of the last seven overall thanks to an ankle injury, is ready to go and will be available to start. The Mirror reports that Pogba spent much of the international break training in Dubai to aid in his recovery.

Also returning for Manchester United is Aaron Wan-Bissaka who has missed the last two Premier League matches with tonsillitis. It was reported that Wan-Bissaka was ready to return for the Newcastle match prior to the international break, but he missed out nonetheless and was absent from the England national team as well. Also reportedly returning is the oft-injured Luke Shaw who has not played since late August thanks to a hamstring problem.

Finally, Anthony Martial could be ready to return from his own hamstring injury. The report is that Martial would be in contention for a place in the Manchester United18-man squad, suggesting that he may need a match or two to regain full fitness for a starting spot but would be an option off the bench if needed.

Liverpool and Manchester United meet on Sunday for the 203rd time overall and 173rd time in the top flight, kicking off at 11:30 a.m. ET from Old Trafford. The matchup is significant for both sides as Liverpool looks to maintain its perfect record and eight point lead atop the Premier League table, while Manchester United is hoping for a boost from its vastly mediocre record to this point in the season, having recorded just two wins through the first eight matches.

Pogba, Shaw, Martial remain sidelined

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Paul Pogba will miss a second straight Premier League match as he continues to overcome a persistent ankle injury.

Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ahead of his side’s league matchup at West Ham United on Sunday, confirmed that Pogba, along with left back Luke Shaw and forward Anthony Martial will all miss out on the match-up. Pogba hasn’t played since suffering an ankle injury in Man United’s 1-1 draw with Southampton before the international break.

Pogba missed a chance to join up with the France National Team for Euro 2020 qualifiers and according to Solskjaer, via the Manchester Evening News, Pogba hasn’t returned to full training. At the same time, Wales international and rising star Daniel James could also miss the match with an undisclosed injury. James reportedly suffered the injury during Man United’s 1-0 win over Leicester City.

The quartet of players all missed out on Man United’s 1-0 win over Astana in the UEFA Europa League group stage opener. Man United is now 2-0 since losing Pogba, with the wins over Leicester City and Astana. It will be fascinating to see whether Nemanja Matic retains his place alongside Scott McTominay, and whether that gives Man United a little more defensive balance.

Pogba so far has played four matches for Man United this season. Both Shaw and Martial have just played three times, though Martial already has two goals on the season.

Man United suffer injury crisis

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Manchester United will be without several first team stars for their Premier League clash against Leicester City on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed on Friday that Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial are all out injured, while Jesse Lingard and Aaron Wan-Bissaka may not make it either.

United host a Leicester side who are unbeaten so far and playing some dazzling stuff under Brendan Rodgers, as many believe this game will set the tone for the Foxes pushing above United this season and having a better chance than the Red Devils of nicking a top four spot.

This injury crisis is far from ideal for Solskjaer.

“The treatment room has been busy and still is,” Solskjaer said. “We don’t really know who is going to be available. Maybe Aaron, maybe Jesse and that’s it from the ones that had to pull out but I can’t promise those two will be fit either. Pogba won’t be fit unless he’s had a miraculous recovery overnight. He’s not been ready to train at 100 per cent. We hope more can be ready for West Ham, Paul and Anthony are in that category. I think they will be ready for then. I can’t say more than that.”

So, that is Pogba, Lingard, Shaw, Martial and Wan-Bissaka all likely to be missing, plus Diogo Dalot and Eric Bailly are out injured.

How might United line up against Leicester at Old Trafford?

The lineup below is probable, and it certainly looks like Leicester’s pace and trickery in the final third may be too much for this banged up United side to handle.

—– De Gea —–

—- Tuanzebe —- Lindelof —- Maguire —- Young —-

—- McTominay —- Matic —-

—- Mata —- Perreira —- James —- 

—– Rashford —–

Not time for panic at Man United

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It won’t be a popular notion in a competitive world which demands people make their own luck, but Manchester United fans should not push the panic button yet when it comes to the club’s early season performances.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 1-2 Palace | Ole reacts ]

Yes, there are deserved questions about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as a manager (Jesse Lingard has been subpar for the better part of a calendar year), and Paul Pogba as a center piece. Marcus Rashford may not be a “United level” star center forward and the sale of Romelu Lukaku without replacing him with a backup above the age of 17 is a hazard at best.

Despite all these things, United should very much be unbeaten right now.

The Red Devils weren’t as good as their 4-0 score line versus Chelsea to open the season, but it appears their opponents aren’t anywhere near the traditional standard bearers to wear the Stamford Bridge set’s blue colors following a draw with Leicester City and scrappy 3-2 defeat of Norwich City.

Consider: Opta reports that United is only the second team to win a penalty in each of their first three matches to a Premier League season, after Chelsea in 2012-13.

Also consider: Chelsea made all of theirs (Also an odd one, all of those penalties came before the 23rd minute. Low stress. The scorers were Frank Lampard (2) and Eden Hazard).

United probably deserved to have gotten all three points from their draw with Wolves a week ago, and no club deserves to be enraged as the seemingly case-by-case rulebook being applied to in-game penalty reviews by the VAR (although Spurs supporters are likely feeling a change in the wind between Aymeric Laporte‘s handball and Jamaal Lascelles‘ face plant, we imagine).

The nature of the last two finishes has also been a shock to the system. United, like most big clubs, simply doesn’t lose at home and not late. According to Opta, Patrick Van Aanholt joined Thierry Henry as the only visitors players to have scored a 90th minute winner at Old Trafford (At some point we should have a discussion about Van Aanholt being criminally underrated, but not on account of David De Gea‘s “Where’d my hands go?” routine).

But this is very much a case of luck, Fortune, or whatever word you deem adequate to describe the defiance of statistics. On Saturday alone, Gary Cahill tried a rodeo mount of Martial and VAR somehow didn’t deem it a penalty; Rashford smashed a penalty off the post; And one of the finest goal keepers in the world forgot how to keep goal.

Small sample size alert, but look at United’s standing in these statistical categories (via WhoScored.com). The Red Devils have had all of the ball, are winning their 50/50s, passing well, and are arriving in an ornery mood. Obviously, they should shoot more. Also, they should score their penalties.

The other good news comes in this way: United’s best performers have come from the players they’ve identified as a big part of their future.

Anthony Martial has been their most influential player and should’ve won a penalty against Palace in addition to his assist (and goals in each of their first two PL matches). Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Daniel James are delivering the goods, too.

United faces a tricky trip to in-form Southampton this week. Saints deserved a point against Liverpool before beating Brighton, but will be playing its third match in a week following midweek League Cup action versus Fulham.

Should they falter, especially via a missed penalty, well… first and foremost, send us your popcorn gifs. But truly, consider the performance. Given the club’s lack of addressing the midfield and willingness to let Lukaku walk, perhaps you’d say the Red Devils displays away from the penalty spot this early season have been in a decent place.

This isn’t to say the team is great. I picked them to finish outside the Top Four and have yet to be swayed that the Red Devils can come together quick enough to outlast Man City, Liverpool, Spurs, and Arsenal over 38 matches. Solskjaer is likely to prove a lesser Zidane over time (a terrific man manager, but not as advanced when it comes to matching wits with the best tactical minds or even super experienced ones like Roy Hodgson).

Panic, however, should be reserved not for a 1-1-1 start. If you want to direct your frustration somewhere, I’d choose the lot using missed penalties to fire racism at players.