Manchester United vs. Liverpool: Mourinho has edge over Klopp

The FC crew debate their predictions for Sunday’s Premier League clash between Manchester United and Liverpool.
Liverpool legend Ian Rush fears the influence of Jose Mourinho when the Merseysiders face Manchester United.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool: Who is better? We’ve gone through all the key positions to determine who has the edge — and you can vote, too.

From the goalkeepers right through to the forwards and each team’s manager, our ESPN FC club bloggers discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each position ahead of Sunday’s massive match. 

Do you agree? Have your say by voting in each poll.


Scott Patterson: In world football, David De Gea has got to be regarded as one of the very best in his position, if not the best. His reactions are fantastic, his positioning is good, his distribution is spot on and he will certainly make the defence in front of him feel at ease.

Some might say he was at fault for Stoke’s late equaliser at Old Trafford back in October, proving he’s not totally perfect, but it’s really difficult to find fault in him.

Steven Kelly: Distinctly average, when you think of what clubs challenging for honours would usually have at their disposal. Loris Karius could just have made a nervy start and Simon Mignolet isn’t exactly terrible, but it does seem like Liverpool can’t come close to matching what United or even Chelsea have in this department.


SP: At the start of the season, this area looked like the weakest for United. In the past couple of months, though, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones have formed a surprisingly excellent partnership in the centre. Eric Bailly is at the African Nations Cup, but looked like an excellent signing before his injury.

At right-back, Antonio Valencia has been brilliant, with his previous concentration lapses seemingly leaving his game. His crossing could be better but he has helped in the lead up to several goals this season.

The big area of weakness is left-back. Jose Mourinho doesn’t seem to fancy Luke Shaw and the youngster is often injured or ill. He surely is the long-term future for this position, though. Matteo Darmian has played here most often but isn’t good enough. Also, Chris Smalling’s season hasn’t reached the heights of last.

SK: As a rebuilding club, Liverpool will look upon the various sections of their team and find room for improvement. Their full-backs are steady enough but there’s been a recent — hopefully temporary — decline in the performances of James Milner, which is understandable.

There are small doubts over Joel Matip’s fitness and Dejan Lovren never quite impresses for long enough periods. The fact that Lucas Leiva has been used in central defence speaks volumes. Jurgen Klopp’s style overall probably isn’t conducive to an airtight “backs to the wall” defence anyway, so maybe this is one area that has to be sacrificed slightly for the team to function properly elsewhere.


SP: Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick have been among United’s best performing players this season. Their strengths complement each other perfectly. Both were overlooked initially but have been vital in United’s string of recent victories.

Marouane Fellaini has suffered plenty of criticism from United supporters this season and it’s hard to think of an attribute that makes him stand out or be worth a place in the team. In fairness, he has excellent chest control and his height makes him a good option to aim at when desperate for a goal, although that rarely works. The fans believe he’s the weak link, even if Mourinho doesn’t agree.

SK: Another area where the Reds are developing without ever looking like the real deal. There are always question marks over certain players — whether they are midfielders or more like forwards.

In a traditional midfield sense, Jordan Henderson seems about the best of the bunch and even he divides opinion. There are big frustrations now whether Emre Can is ever going to make the step up in class he so desperately needs. Georginio Wijnaldum has not found consistency but certain performances have been excellent. While Adam Lallana has been terrific this season, again this is more about going forward than the usual “water carrying” duties of a midfielder.


SP: United are spoilt for choice in attack. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been scoring for fun, which is a remarkable achievement for someone of his age who has just joined from a weaker league in Ligue 1. Juan Mata is playing some of the best football of his career, having won Mourinho around.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial had a quiet spell after a few disappointing appearances but now look more like the players they were last season. Supporters would hope to see them get more playing time than they’ve had.

Elsewhere, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been in an out of the team. It’s hard to know whether he would have played as well as he is doing now had he not been left out for so long. Maybe he would have, so it’s shame United missed out on his talent for so long, particularly drawing that period of draws.

SK: Sadio Mane has been the pick of the bunch in a team that thrives without a proper centre-forward, the plan being everybody contributes to the goals total.

Philippe Coutinho has also played well and when Roberto Firmino is on form, Liverpool generally play some excellent football. When form dips however, the same players still work hard enough.

The real forwards, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi, seem to struggle fitting into Klopp’s plan and although the Belgian had a good scoring run at the end of 2016, his English counterpart does not seem integral to Klopp’s strategy.


SP: The expectation is that managers are instantly successful, particularly if they’ve spent big money. While United have played good football all season, the results haven’t always match the performances, and Mourinho was held accountable for that.

Some claimed he’d lost his magic touch. However, over the past month or two, Mourinho has managed to make the team click. They have one foot in the EFL Cup final at Wembley and are the only team in the Premier League who are still competing on four fronts.

United aren’t the finished article yet but it’s clear Mourinho has got the team heading in the right direction.

SK: Regarded at Borussia Dortmund as one of the best coaches in Europe, Klopp saw Liverpool as an opportunity to cement that reputation.

Given the immense competition in England, however, it is doubtful whether he can achieve such an aim without bigger financial backing from the club, particularly when Liverpool will play two games a week more often in the future.

So, who has more to lose on Sunday? Pogba vs. Lallana: who will come out on top? Mourinho has urged the Manchester United fans to improve the atmosphere when Klopp’s men come to Old Trafford — is he right?


Have your say in the comments below.

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