Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal enjoyed a decent start to his second year in charge until it was halted by Swansea’s comeback before the international break.
The Dutchman will be eager to get back to winning ways and there is a great opportunity for his side to gain some momentum this weekend against fierce rivals Liverpool.
What must United do though to ensure they gain the vital home win? Here are three things we think Louis van Gaal simply needs to look at if he’s to get all three points against United’s old enemy…
The Old Trafford crowd will expect their side to dominate proceedings from the first whistle and pin their arch rivals back.
The key to this will be the wide areas, where the two full-backs have been an impressive feature of Van Gaal’s team so far this season.
Luke Shaw seems to be enjoying his best spell yet in United colours and showed signs that he is in form by offering an excellent attacking option for England this week.
Meanwhile on the right, Matteo Darmian has settled fastest of all the new recruits in the Red Devils’ squad and looks to be ticking all the boxes as an attacking full-back.
United’s attacking midfielders such as Juan Mata and Memphis Depay will drift infield allowing Shaw and Darmian to overlap and ensure Liverpool are fenced in.
A massive bonus for Van Gaal is that the opposition’s biggest counter attacking threat, Philippe Coutinho, misses the match through suspension.
Liverpool of course have other players who are dangerous on the break but the absence of Coutinho reduces the risk for United if they choose to be extra adventurous on the flanks.
The biggest decision facing the manager and his coaching staff this week surrounds the goalkeeping position and it is likely to be much nearer to kick off time before we learn who is going to don the gloves for United in Saturday’s derby.
Sergio Romero has so far received absolute backing from his boss and seemed to be repaying that faith with a succession of clean sheets as United made a steady start.
Against Swansea, however, the Argentine failed to continue his solidity and with David De Gea now staying at Old Trafford, many are wondering if Romero’s time as number one is up.
De Gea meanwhile has endured a turbulent few months culminating in the last-minute collapse of his dream move to Real Madrid.
Van Gaal openly stated that Romero was picked in front of the Spanish star as De Gea was clearly affected by the transfer speculation.
Where and when to re-introduce United’s best player from the last two campaigns is a massive decision.
Both goalkeepers are likely to feel immense pressure if they start on Saturday.
Van Gaal must watch the pair like a hawk this week before making the call. Having the coolest head between the sticks will be vital if United are to prevail.
The big Belgian was a surprise star performer for United last term.
Signed by David Moyes, many thought that Van Gaal’s arrival would see him slip into the background, but he was an unlikely hero on numerous occasions as the Red Devils clawed their way back into Champions League football.
The new arrivals in the summer though have seen his game-time limited so far this campaign.
During the international break, Fellaini, in Belgian colours, reminded us all of the many string to his bow.
It is not necessary that United select him from the start, although there is an argument that his combative style could be suited to the derby fixture.
It is vital however, that he is in the match day squad.
His height and strength give United a different kind of threat, something to try if the more aesthetic probing of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay fails to deliver.
He is useful at the other end, too. Benteke will be a handful for Smalling and Blind; they could be grateful for Fellaini’s help at set pieces late in the game.
Likewise, if Liverpool choose to target the United goalkeeper at crosses, the towering Belgian could provide a welcome and bulky buffer.