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Talking Tactics

Herrera can lead Man Utd fight at Anfield

13 Dec 2018
Ander Herrera, Man Utd

Adrian Clarke says the combative Spaniard is back in form and can be influential against Liverpool

Adrian Clarke looks at the key tactical battles in Matchweek 17.

Liverpool v Manchester United

History tells us that breaking up Liverpool’s flow will form a key part of Jose Mourinho’s strategy at Anfield on Sunday.

Unbeaten in four matches against Jurgen Klopp as Manchester United manager, Mourinho has habitually frustrated their age-old rivals with disciplined, physical game plans that have made the matches attritional.

To repeat that trick Mourinho will lean heavily on in-form Ander Herrera.

Taking his opportunity

Until the start of December the 29-year-old had only started two Premier League matches this season.

Recalled for the trip to Southampton at the start of the month, a match he scored in, Herrera is back in favour with his manager.

Herrera has been a shining light, performing with great enthusiasm against Saints, Arsenal and Fulham, combatively running the midfield.

On the ball he has taken responsibility, averaging more than 64 passes per match with a respectable 88.1 per cent pass accuracy.

It is Herrera’s aggression that has caught the eye.

Herrera's recent form
Opp Tackles Interceptions Distance (km)
SOU 7 2 11.4
ARS 5 6 12.2
FUL 5 9 12.3
Ave 5.7 5.7 12.0

Breaking up play with high frequency, making a steady stream of tackles and interceptions, the Spaniard has added much-needed energy and bite to United’s midfield.

At home to Fulham, Herrera was decisive, making nine interceptions, all but two being between the two penalty areas down the middle of the pitch.

If he can perform to the same standards at Anfield, he will stem the quality of service Liverpool supply their all-star attack.

Two or three-man midfield?

Herrera and Nemanja Matic will likely be paired in a muscular midfield that has functioned well in the last two PL matches.

Herrera’s superb engine means he can easily handle playing in a central midfield pairing.

He ran the most distance of any United player in each of the last three PL fixtures.

But Mourinho may be tempted to match up Liverpool’s three-man midfield.

Fellaini to start?

If he believes Klopp will use that trusted formula rather than a 4-2-3-1, the United boss could reintroduce Marouane Fellaini to his starting XI.

The Belgian has a good record against Liverpool and is sure to provide the physicality his manager usually seeks out in this fixture.

Whatever Mourinho decides, negating Liverpool’s free-flowing football will be a priority.

That means Herrera is very much a key man.

Also in this series

Part 1: Snodgrass adding energy to West Ham
Part 2: Hasenhuttl must restore stability at Southampton
Part 3: Gueye has the style to upset Man City

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