Manchester United are visiting their arch-rivals Liverpool on Saturday, and Jose Mourinho will be without Marouane Fellaini after the midfielder sustained a left knee injury.
The 29-year-old Belgian was subbed off in the 30th minute of the World Cup qualification clash against Bosnia & Herzegovina in Sarajevo a few days ago, and although there were fears about the lengthy layoff, Fellaini will be out for a couple of weeks.
That means he will be sidelined for the Northwestern Derby, and with Paul Pogba already injured and unavailable, Mourinho’s troubles just became more significant.
A Mourinho favorite
The Portuguese tactician clearly favors Fellaini over Ander Herrera this season as the Belgian previously scored four goals and added an assist in eight matches in 2017/18.
He also played full 90 minutes in the previous three Premier League games, scoring a brace in a 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
On the other hand, the last year’s Man United player of the season, Ander Herrera, started only one EPL game, and except for the latest Champions League duel with CSKA Moscow, failed to play entire match in this campaign.
The former Athletic Bilbao midfielder will likely get a start alongside Nemanja Matic, but the Red Devils are going to be limited as both of them are not known for their goal-scoring record.
Limited attacking contributions from his stand-ins
Neither Matic nor Herrera scored a goal this season, while Fellaini was more than helpful in the attack, thanks to his height, strength, and ability to create havoc when coming from deep.
He would be a perfect option for Mourinho at Anfield and would indeed represent a threat to fragile Liverpool defense, but now, the gaffer must turn to Herrera instead.
Herrera and Matic are not known for offensive contribution, as they are playmakers and the players who specialized in disrupting opponent’s passing game, entirely different from Pogba and Fellaini.
While Mourinho cannot rely on his central midfielders to play a significant role in the final third, we can expect him to be more defensive at Anfield, as it was the case in the last season, when United had only one shot on target and just 35% of ball possession.
However, they managed to avoid defeat as the match ended 0-0, and I believe Man United would be satisfied to snatch another draw at Liverpool this time around.
United have options, but his presence will be missed
Still, United will have their options in the attack as Romelu Lukaku is likely to be ready for the clash after missing the Belgium against Bosnia & Herzegovina tie as a precaution, and I don’t think he will play against Cyprus as well.
Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are all more than capable of being match winners, so Mourinho and United should be fine.
However, Liverpool’s aggressiveness in the midfield could be the key, and Fellaini’s absence will be noticeable in case Mourinho opts to send long balls and skips the center of the park.
Marouane is excellent as a target man, and he will surely be missed, and at the moment, his unavailability is a bigger problem for the “Special One” than Paul Pogba’s.
Written by Oliver Zivic
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