Wednesday 22 November 2017

The key battles for Louis van Gaal and Brendan Rodgers

Manchester United and Liverpool managers look to forward lines

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

Barry Lennon

Louis van Gaal and his Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers will look to their forward units for inspiration at Old Trafford today.

The Red Devils boss insisted yesterday he was “not a dictator” after Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick raised concerns about morale at Manchester United yesterday.

The Dutch man, justifying his position, said that the concerns they raised with him were a positive sign from the dressing-room.

Far from a revolution, they had come to Van Gaal with these worries  to "help" him.

Louis van Gaal, pictured, admitted an approach from Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick over the 'flat' dressing-room atmosphere
Louis van Gaal, pictured, admitted an approach from Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick over the 'flat' dressing-room atmosphere

However, Rooney could have further helped his manager and himself by scoring at today’s clash with Liverpool.

Unfortunately for him, he will miss that opportunity today - removed from today’s proceedings over hamstring concerns. 

Read more: Wayne Rooney set to miss Liverpool clash with hamstring injury

Rooney has gone 14 hours of football (10 games) without scoring a Premier League goal despite surpassing Bobby Charlton’s record on international duty during the week.

While recent displays for England and in Europe have reminded of his ability, he will be hoping to overcome his more worrying Premier League form as soon he is cleared to play again.

Van Gaal would indeed be helped by improved goal-scoring up front, after failing to sign a striker to replace Robin Van Persie following much speculation during the transfer window.

The latest injury worry is a further setback for a striker looking to get back on track.

There’s a similar story at Anfield as Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers will look to his forward line to help answer questions.

Read more: Gary Neville: Van Gaal has fallen out with too many players - the alarm bells are ringing

Yesterday, Rodgers pleaded for more time to re-establish his distinctive playing style after Harry Redknapp branded his side the “worst  Liverpool team in years”.

By getting his name on the score sheet, Christian Benteke could help his manager silence his critics after the Reds’ 3-0 defeat to West Ham.

Statistically, Benteke has had better form against Manchester United than Rooney against Liverpool with two goals in five games (Rooney has five in 24). 

The Belgian international’s physical battle will test one of United’s standout defenders in Chris Smalling, who looks as though he may finally be fulfilling the potential he showed back in his Fulham days.

Read more: Brendan Rodgers in plea for 'more time' to deliver in style

Meanwhile, Dejan Lovren feeling the need to improve will not be helped by the fact that he has had eight errors leading to opposition chances in 30 appearances since moving to Anfield - more than any other player in that time for Liverpool despite the fact he has been out on loan for long periods.

 Perhaps unexpectedly so,  United’s Juan Mata has come into the side come into this clash as crucial as ever.

United’s players have only scored two goals so far this season and Mata has been directly involved in both (one goal, one assist).

He may face a challenge in Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva, who believed he was on his way to Besiktas only a few weeks ago, is back in the frame as Liverpool’s top tackler registering four tackles per games - more than most Premier League players.

A final question for Van Gaal will be the performance of his ’keeper David De Gea and whether  his failed bid to move to Real Madrid will unsteady him.

However, one thing you can be sure of is Van Gaal will be more than sure of himself. 

Read more: Famous Old Trafford clashes

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