Liverpool players dominated the selection as Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville picked combined XIs on Monday Night Football, but there were still some differences between the ex-players’ picks
Liverpool have had the measure of Manchester United over the last few seasons, going unbeaten in the last six league meetings between the sides.
The Reds have started this season the stronger of the two, sitting four places and four points ahead of their rivals ahead of their clash at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Despite United ending last season higher in the table than their upcoming opponents, former Red Devils captain Gary Neville and ex-Liverpool skipper Jamie Carragher both suggested the Anfield club have the stronger squad when picking a combined XI across the two teams.
However, as is often the case with the former England international defenders, there were still plenty of points of contention.
Neville and Carragher assessed the two squads on Monday Night Football, in the aftermath of vastly different results for their former clubs over the weekend.
There were eight players who made both combined XIs, and all eight belong to Liverpool: goalkeeper Alisson, defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van DIjk and Andy Robertson, midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, and forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
It was in the other three spots where the choices differed, prompting a heated debate in the studio.
Carragher added Joel Matip to his selection, ensuring an all-Liverpool back-line, while including Manchester United duo Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood in the remaining spots.
“Possibly in the last 12 months or a little bit further, I’d have put Harry Maguire in there,” Carragher said.
“But I think Matip… has probably actually been better than Virgil van Dijk this season, and he’s a player who goes under the radar.”
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The 43-year-old pundit also singled out Fernandes for his goals, even though he admitted the Portugal international might not be the style of midfielder preferred by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
“He’s been a brilliant signing for Manchester United,” Carragher said.
“I think he’s elevated them over the last couple of years [when] he’s been there… I think he’s one of the stand-out players in the Premier League and the numbers show that.”
As for Greenwood, Carragher described the United forward as a “superstar,” adding that his decision to pick the 20-year-old over Cristiano Ronaldo was based on the players today rather than any historical achievements..
“I just think going back to last season, and even his role this season, I think he’s a superstar and I really had to find a place for him in there.”
Neville’s remaining three players were also two from United and one from Liverpool, and he opted for his former team-mate Ronaldo in attack and Harry Maguire at centre-back.
Speaking of Ronaldo, Neville said: “He’s one of the greatest goalscorers of all time, and with Salah and Mane I thought he should be up front.
“I think ultimately in that kind of team, with Fabinho and Henderson behind, Firmino behind and those two wide, he would be absolutely devastating.
“United haven’t got players like that, unfortunately. They haven’t got a Fabinho, they haven’t got a Henderson.”
As for Neville’s decision to include Firmino behind the striker after watching the Brazilian hit a hat-trick over the weekend, he admitted it was the hardest call for him to make.
“I refuse to disrespect Firmino, and what I’ve seen for three, four, five years,” he said
“The work in possession and out of possession that he does on behalf of the team is unbelievable.”
The combined XIs prompted plenty of reaction on social media, and will no doubt continue to be debated in the lead-up to the match between United and Liverpool this weekend.
The teams fact off on Sunday at 4.30pm, with Liverpool knowing another win at Old Trafford – following their 4-2 victory at the end of last season – can take them seven points clear of their rivals.