Liverpool meet Manchester United this weekend in the biggest clash in English football, the nation’s two most successful clubs once again doing battle in the North West.
Rarely, however, has a clash between the two taken on such significance in recent years with Man United currently leading the Premier League title race, three points clear of the defending champions and Sunday’s opponents.
Liverpool‘s drought-breaking championship last season saw them move within just one of United’s landmark of 20 top-flight crowns, and this weekend’s huge clash at Anfield could yet prove decisive in the destination of the 2020/21 title.
Ahead of the crucial contest, we’ve picked our combined Liverpool and Man United XI:
Goalkeeper: Alisson – Liverpool
For many years David de Gea held the title as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, but a drop in standards and the arrival of a host of new number ones sees the Manchester United shot-stopper edged out by Liverpool’s brilliant Brazilian.
Liverpool’s decision to splash a then world-record fee for a goalkeeper on the star has been a wise decision with Alisson having had a transformative impact on the Reds’ backline, forming a reliable last line of defence for a side which have lifted the Champions League and Premier League over the past two seasons.
The 28-year-old won the Premier League’s Golden Glove during his debut campaign and was the recipient of the inaugural Yashin trophy as world football’s best goalkeeper in 2019.
Goalkeepers often win plaudits for producing spectacular moments of agility or sensational saves, but it is Alisson’s ability to make elite goalkeeping seem almost mundanely routine that truly sets him apart.
Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold – Liverpool
Trent Alexander-Arnold has failed to hit the extraordinary standards he has set himself so far this season, but there remains few more talented right-backs in world football than Liverpool’s home-grown star.
The 22-year-old has raised the bar for creativity from the full-back position since breaking into the Reds’ first-team and provided a record-breaking 13 assists for a defender during the club’s 2019/20 title-winning campaign.
Alexander-Arnold’s relentless fitness and superb technique have made him an invaluable component of Liverpool’s attacking play, his ability to influence proceedings and win matches earning him inclusion over the defensive strengths of Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Centre-back: Fabinho – Liverpool
Liverpool’s problems defensively this season have been well documented with the club’s centre-back options having been ravaged by injury, with Jurgen Klopp turning to midfield enforcer Fabinho in an unfamiliar defensive role.
The Brazilian has adapted brilliantly to the deeper position, where his organisational qualities and tactical intelligence have seen him produce a number of outstanding performances.
Fabinho’s assured displays saw teammate Georginio Wijnaldum claim the midfielder had looked like he had played centre-back his ‘whole life’ earlier in the season, with the 27-year-old now arguably the most important player for Liverpool’s hopes of defending the title.
Centre-back: Harry Maguire – Manchester United
Harry Maguire’s record-breaking price-tag has often been used as a stick to beat him with and the £80m man is far from perfect, though there is little disputing the England international has improved the Manchester United backline since arriving at Old Trafford
Maguire is an imposing physical presence and carries the ball out of defence with confidence, whilst his dominance aerially – ranking second in the Premier League amongst centre-backs for aerials won per game – is a major asset to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in both boxes.
No CB has won more aerial duels  or made more interceptions  than Harry Maguire in the Premier League so far this season.
Solid in the air and on the deck. 💪 pic.twitter.com/LTioMiaZ7W
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 13, 2021
The 27-year-old can be prone to mistakes and his mobility has often come under question against attacks with real pace, but the defender’s partnership alongside the athletic and resurgent Eric Bailly offers promise for the Red Devils moving forward.
Left-back: Andy Robertson – Liverpool
Perhaps the best full-back in the Premier League at present, Andy Robertson is enjoying possibly his best individual season as a Liverpool player despite the Reds’ stuttering title defence.
The Scotland captain has been an ever-present for the champions this season and has provided his usual level of quality from the left flank, ranking first in the Premier League for both touches and crosses with his five assists also the joint-most of any defender in the division.
Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is the only player to have provided more assists in the Premier League since the start of the 2018/19 campaign, Robertson a model of consistency and the best in the business at left-back.
Midfield: Thiago Alcantara – Liverpool
Premier League fans are yet to see the best of Thiago Alcantara with the summer signing having made just two league starts due to injury, but there is no disputing the Spain international stands as one of the division’s finest footballers.
Thiago’s résumé includes winning nine league titles and two Champions League trophies across spells with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and he will now be tasked with being the orchestrator of Liverpool’s approach play.
His fleeting appearances have already demonstrated a willingness to become the central hub of passages of play, whilst his invention will be crucial with opposition sides having frustrated the Reds this season with compact defensive lines.
🇪🇸 Thiago's appearances for Liverpool:
🛣️ Away to Chelsea
🛣️ Away to Everton
🛣️ Away to Newcastle
🛣️ Away to Southampton
🛣️ Away to Aston Villa
🏟️ The Spaniard will finally make his Anfield debut for Liverpool on Sunday pic.twitter.com/26Ye7jPk5T
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 14, 2021
United are likely to head to Anfield this weekend with the counter attack their chief threat, and now would be an ideal time for Thiago to make his most significant contribution yet in a Liverpool shirt.
Midfield: Jordan Henderson – Liverpool
The reigning FWA Footballer of the Year and a player Liverpool often struggle without, the days when Jordan Henderson was often lamented are beginning to seem ever more distant.
Henderson will never be the most fashionable footballer but he is undoubtedly a functional one, his energy and drive crucial to the style of Jurgen Klopp’s side as he plugs gaps when the Red’s flying full-backs venture forward.
The 30-year-old is not a major attacking asset or a disciplined midfield anchor, but a box-to-box workhorse whose cog remains ever crucial to a system that has delivered huge success to Merseyside over the past two campaigns.
Paul Pogba – enjoying a recent renaissance in the Manchester United midfield – and the always reliable Georginio Wijnaldum are both hugely unfortunate to miss out on selection.
Midfield: Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United
If Bruno Fernandes has not been the best player in the Premier League since his arrival, he has certainly been the most influential and arguably the most transformative signing in recent memory.
Fernandes has set almost unprecedented levels of consistency since signing for the Red Devils from Sporting Lisbon, providing a staggering 33 combined goals and assists in just 31 Premier League appearances.
The 26-year-old’s 32 goal involvements in 2020 were the most ever recorded by a Premier League midfielder in a calendar year, despite the Portugal international not making his debut in the division until February.
United’s hopes will once again be pinned on the star to deliver this weekend, with Fernandes a player capable of being the difference on the biggest of occasions.
Right-wing: Mohamed Salah – Liverpool
Another player who has shattered records ever since his arrival into the Premier League, the signing of Mohamed Salah must rank amongst the Reds’ best pieces of business of the Jurgen Klopp era.
Premier League winner, Champions League winner, two Premier League Golden Boots and a Player of the Year double are just a some of the notable achievements by the Egyptian in recent seasons, with the 28-year-old having plundered a phenomenal 111 goals in just 177 Liverpool appearances.
Amongst the premier talents in world football at present, Salah is currently the division’s leading scorer with 13 goals so far this season and is the current frontrunner to become just the third player – after Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry – to finish as the Premier League’s top scorer on three or more occasions.
Left-wing: Sadio Mane – Liverpool
Sadio Mane remains one of the most exciting players in the Premier League when at his very best, with the forward’s mix of talents making him a unique proposition as one of the game’s best inside forwards.
The Senegal international possesses electric pace and an appetite for the pressing play Liverpool look to impose, willing to battle defenders throughout contests and bamboozling full-backs with his close control and swift changes of direction.
The 28-year-old has often delivered when it matters most for the Reds and is set to be a key figure in Liverpool’s bid to retain the title this season, with Mane quickly closing in on becoming just the second African player to reach a century of Premier League goals.
Forward: Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
Marcus Rashford’s best position may just be on the left-hand side of the attack, but we’ve opted to include the Manchester United forward as our central figure in a fluid and formidable frontline.
The 22-year-old has featured as a centre-forward on seven occasions this season and has returned five goal contributions during that time, with Rashford having netted 14 goals in 28 appearances during a strong start to the season.
Rashford burst onto the scene as a teenager and has since established himself as an important figure for his boyhood side, improving his goal return each season and netting a career-best 22 times in 2019/20.
The forward’s speed and skill have tormented Liverpool in previous seasons and he will no doubt be relishing the opportunity to test himself against the champion’s defence once more this weekend.
Read – Five of the best Man United v Liverpool games