|Manchester United have to match Liverpool for effort on Monday night|
The North-West derby will be the main attraction next weekend as club football resumes on the back of another disruptive International break. Incredibly, the authorities have risked with a Monday night schedule for England's most volatile fixture but the clubs will not mind it one bit given the late arrival of players from their national teams.
Ander Herrera recently made the point that United will be better prepared for the fixture than they were for the Manchester derby because the South American contingent get an extra two days to join up with the squad and prepare for the game. Certainly, this particular issue will not form part of the lamenting from either manager's press conference later this week.
Of the two sides though, the feeling is that Manchester United are the ones under-cooked for Monday for intensity if not quality. Man for man, United have a better squad than Liverpool. Indeed, only recently, the club's squad value was declared above the likes of FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. The monetary investment at the club therefore warrants much more than United's projections for this season. That United have spent such an outlay on the squad and yet appear to be inferior to some opposition betrays the logic of the investment. The gauntlet falls squarely on the manager to make it work and reflect the investment.
Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool looks like he has justified the hype about him by transmitting that chest-forward brave in battle intense style to the old enemy. As such, the Merseysiders burn the highest amount of energy in the division. It bodes well for them that they do not have the distraction of European football to tire them. Indeed, the flaw with the gen gen-pressing
style of play is that it burns out a team over the course of the season, or at best within a couple of years. That failure to keep the endurance levels when the trophies come calling between February and May is what often fails otherwise decent sides.
Sir Alex Ferguson often used a big squad to keep personnel relatively fresh even at the close end of the season. Klopp seems to have bulked up on squad size and that is why the bookmakers currently have them in the top four. Whilst the future danger is that the hard pressing game will cause burnout for Liverpool, they are currently fresh and up it.
And that is the reality that Manchester United will have to deal with on Monday night. Liverpool will run at and hassle United at every opportunity. United will not be afforded the casual build up play that has characterised their game this season. Jose Mourinho has to prepare his side not to suffer from the shock they experienced in that first half of the Manchester derby when his side had to go 0-2 down before they came to terms with the challenge before them.
As such, the preparation for Monday will require Manchester United to step up a level. Like the derby, premier league games against top four rivals are the highest level games that the club will be involved in this season. The measure of United's progress under the new manager can therefore be deduced from their performance in these games. Dropping out of the Champions League even for just a season can sometimes mean that a club gets out of touch with top European standards.
The culture shock is usually evident when the said club makes a return to the competition the following season. It is performances against the big boys that will mark out whether United are ready to join the big boys next year, Indeed, for a place in the big time, United will likely have to finish ahead of Monday night's opponents.