As we look forward to the 200th North West Derby between England’s 2 most successful sides, we would like to take a moment to imagine what it would be like if the two sides combined forces for just one match; the form the starting XI could assume.
DAVID DE GEA: Arguably the best in the land, Manchester United‘s number 1 has been a wall in front of their goal, making save after save to frustrate the opposition. Indeed Liverpool themselves have been on the wrong end of some of Dave’s heroics as they were held to a 0-0 at Anfield earlier in the season amidst a surreal succession of saves from the Madrid born stopper.
ANTONIO VALENCIA: Another United player, and an almost irreplaceable player for the Red Devils. He has started all 25 league games he has been fit for. His cannonade runs down the right flank have culminated in 3 goals and 1 assist. It makes you wonder how he still has the energy to be as defensively sound as he is. A real powerhouse for the Mancunians, their vice captain is almost always one of their top performers.
VIRGIL VAN DIJK: The most expensive defender in the history of the beautiful game began his Liverpool journey with a stunning headed winning goal in the FA Cup against none other than Liverpool’s across town rivals, Everton. His performances have only gotten better and he could continue to pay off his jumbo transfer fee with another superb performance against another of Liverpool’s fierce foes.
JONES: Phil Jones has been (somewhat unbelievably) United’s best Centre back in the league thus far. With injuries to Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof’s extended settling in period and Chris Smalling being Chris Smalling, Jones has been United’s standout performer. He has been sorely missed during his spells of injury with United conceding 9 times in the 8 games he has missed compared to 13 in the 21 he has featured in. They will however be without him as they face Mo Salah and co. on Saturday. If you listen hard enough you can hear United fans quivering in their boots.
ANDREW ROBERTSON: Liverpool have suffered at left back in recent seasons and in fact had to have versatile midfielder James Milner, fill in there for most of last season when it became obvious that Alberto Moreno could not be trusted. But Robertson has silently provided a solid option for the reds since his relatively cheap summer transfer from relegated Hull City. Combining commendable offensive play with resolute defending and positional sense that Moreno was criminally lacking.
NEMANJA MATIC: An ever present for United, Matic has been a linchpin in one of United’s better seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. His defensive shift has been so important that Jose Mourinho has simply refused to consider resting the 29 year old. Among United’s midfielders, Matic ranks 2nd for tackles won per 90, 1st for interceptions (2nd in the whole team) as well as 1st for blocks and clearances per 90 minutes. Oh, and in his spare time, he scores screamers to help complete stirring fightbacks.
EMRE CAN: Liverpool’s versatile German continues to impress especially when he has played in midfield for the reds. Not only does he put in a shift defensively but he also has an eye for a pass and even the odd goal now and again. He combines winning 3 tackles per 90 mins (most by a Liverpool midfielder) with being ranked 1st among the Liverpool central midfielders for interceptions, blocks and clearances per minute as well. He has also provided a key pass on goal more often than any of his peers, notching up 4 assists and 2 goals in the process. A true box to box player.
PAUL POGBA: Manchester United‘s top assist provider may have fallen out with his manager over recent lackluster performances, but his quality on his day is still quite remarkable and plain for all to see. If he could be more consistent in his performances, he would undoubtedly be considered one of the very best in his position. Right now Paul Pogba is on the brink of the upper echelons and it is games like today’s cracker with Liverpool that he needs to do more in to break the ceiling above him.
ANTHONY MARTIAL: United’s super sub has exorcised ghosts of a dismal 2016/2017 season and has already notched up 9 goals and 4 assists in the league despite limited playing time. His amazing speed and velvety skills have put many-a-defender on their backside, making Martial not only productive but also a joy to watch for the United faithful.
ROBERTO FIRMINO: There are many things to love about Roberto Firmino; from his boyish charm and his happy go lucky nature to his penchant for the flamboyant and his fascinating goal celebrations. However, none of these are as important as his 13 goals and 7 assists this season for Liverpool in the EPL, or as important as the manner in which he has made himself a hotlink for virtually all of Liverpool’s attacking moves, from quick interchanges with midfielders, to starting attacking moves with his quick feet and quicker mind, even finding a way to be on the end of scoring chances. Firmino is putting on a masterclass on the role of a false 9 and it’s by far my favorite thing about him. The kung fu kicks are a close second though.
MO SALAH: Already a contender for player of the season and why not? His 24 goals (joint most in the EPL) and 9 assists have galvanized Liverpool to a top 4 position even without the services of Phillipe Coutinho, something most people would have thought impossible at the start of the season. The Egyptian has already been named Premier League POTM twice and PFA POTM 3 times in a magnificent season for the African Footballer of the Year. Not bad for £37m eh?