Jamie Carragher is RIGHT to favour Mason Greenwood over Cristiano Ronaldo in his combined Man United and Liverpool XI, while Gary Neville can make a decent case for Harry Maguire over Joel Matip… but should Paul Pogba have been picked?
- Sky’s Monday Night Football saw pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville pick a combined Manchester United and Liverpool XI ahead of Sunday’s clash
- Both went for nine Liverpool and only two United players in their selections
- Carragher picked Mason Greenwood up front ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo
- Based on their league form this season, there is a strong case for the youngster
- Neville made the argument for Harry Maguire ahead of Joel Matip in defence
- But both omitted Paul Pogba to make room for Jordan Henderson and Fabinho
Manchester United’s clash with Liverpool may not be until Sunday afternoon but debates are already raging about the relative strengths of the two bitter rivals.
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville were invited to select a combined XI from the two teams on Sky’s Monday Night Football show – and it’s fair to say there were some interesting disagreements.
While both pundits picked nine Liverpool and only two United players in their teams, there was disparity in who should lead the attack and who should be in central defence.
So who was right and who was wrong? We analyse the stats from the season so far to settle the argument.
Jamie Carragher (left) and Gary Neville (right) were invited to select a combined XI of Manchester United and Liverpool players ahead of their clash on Sunday
Jamie Carragher selected nine Liverpool and two United players – opting for Mason Greenwood at centre forward instead of Cristiano Ronaldo
Gary Neville, however, disagreed and included the 36-year-old in his own combined XI – the former United defender did also pick nine Liverpool players
Was Carragher right to exclude Cristiano Ronaldo?
Former Liverpool defender Carragher certainly caused a stir when he left United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo out of his team, instead favouring young Mason Greenwood at centre forward.
‘I’m a massive Greenwood fan, I think he’s a superstar, I really do,’ Carragher said.
‘How can you not put Ronaldo in, in terms of what he’s done, legendary figure? I’m talking about actually right now, today, I’d have to have Greenwood.’
When asked, Carragher said he didn’t believe Ronaldo would get into the current Liverpool side, leaving former United defender Neville stunned. ‘Obviously I disagree with that,’ he said after several seconds of silence.
Mason Greenwood celebrates his goal to open the scoring in United’s 4-2 defeat at Leicester
Neville did favour Ronaldo to Greenwood but with Liverpool’s entire forward line of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in support of him.
‘It wasn’t easy but just the idea he’s one of the greatest goalscorers of all time, and with Salah and Mane I thought he should be up front.
‘You would have him up front. In that team, with Fabinho and [Jordan] Henderson behind, with Firmino behind and those two out wide he would be absolutely devastating.’
A comparison of this season’s Premier League stats for Greenwood and Ronaldo admittedly shows little between them.
Cristiano Ronaldo cuts a frustrated figure as he goes a third league game without scoring
Greenwood has scored four goals in eight league matches played so far, starting off the campaign in blistering fashion by netting against Leeds United, Southampton and Wolves.
He returned to scoring form in the 4-2 defeat at Leicester City on Saturday after four goalless games.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, has three league goals in five games since returning to United from Juventus. He scored twice on his ‘second debut’ against Newcastle and also scored in the win at West Ham.
The Portuguese, 36, has now gone three league matches without scoring and cut an anonymous figure leading the line at the King Power Stadium at the weekend.
Ronaldo made a stunning impact when he returned to United but that has faded slightly of late
Both players have an identical shot conversion rate of 14.29 per cent, while Ronaldo has the superior minutes-per-goal ratio having played three fewer games.
Greenwood though has created 10 chances to Ronaldo’s four, showing a more rounded side to his forward play, but equally he has been on the field more often this season.
Given the criticism of Ronaldo’s lack of work-rate, meaning he can be little more than a passenger to United when out of position, you can completely understand why Carragher omitted him for Greenwood.
Should it be Firmino or Fernandes in the No 10 role?
With both pundits setting up their sides in a 4-2-3-1 formation, there was a difference of opinion when it came to who should play the No 10 role, in support of striker Greenwood/Ronaldo.
Neville opted for Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino to play behind Ronaldo, while Carragher went for United’s Bruno Fernandes to play off Mason Greenwood.
Both players have enjoyed productive starts to the Premier League season, both scoring four goals, though Firmino has achieved that in two games fewer.
Bruno Fernandes rues a missed opportunity during Manchester United’s defeat to Leicester
Roberto Firmino with the match ball after his impressive hat-trick against Watford last week
Fernandes has the most assists and certainly creates the greater number of chances for his team-mates. Understandably he plays considerably more passes than Firmino as he looks to unpick opposition defences.
But then that is the difference in his role compared to the Brazilian at Liverpool – Firmino’s job primarily is to take the chances, as he did very well against Watford at the weekend, rather than create them.
What’s noteworthy from the stats is that each of his shots in Premier League games has been on target so far although he’s only had five compared to the 17 of Fernandes.
There’s not a great deal to separate the pair but if you wanted a true No 10 who is also adept at scoring goals, it has to be Fernandes.
Maguire or Matip at the back?
Carragher’s all-Liverpool back four included Joel Matip alongside Virgil van Dijk, while Neville disagreed, slotting United captain Harry Maguire in alongside Van Dijk.
Matip has played in all but one of Liverpool’s eight Premier League games this season and Carragher actually believes he is performing better than Van Dijk.
‘He’s a player that goes under the radar because he’s not a huge name, he came in on a free transfer, he’s been there a long time under Jurgen Klopp,’ the ex-Liverpool defender said.
‘Every time he plays he’s top class, he really is and that partnership with Van Dijk is really good at the minute.
Jamie Carragher made a case for picking Liverpool’s defensive duo Matip (left) and Van Dijk
‘The performances he’s given, certainly in the last 18 months, he was the centre-back who played in the Champions League final for Liverpool.
‘He’s played in so many big games, this season he’s almost been an ever-present, he’s been fantastic.’
Matip’s stats in the Premier League so far this season certainly stand up to scrutiny, even if they’re inferior to Van Dijk’s.
The former Cameroon international excels in intercepting passes and winning duels with opponents, while he’s rarely beaten by opponents running with the ball.
Maguire didn’t have the best return to Leicester but he does excel in certain facets of his game
The same can’t be said of Maguire, who has been dribbled past five times in seven games but is undoubtedly stronger when it comes to aerial battles.
Matip has a far better success rate when it comes to putting a tackle in, however, and is less susceptible to an error.
It does suggest that Carragher was correct to include Matip ahead of Maguire, though Neville could equally make a decent case for the England defender depending on which facts and figures you emphasise.
Are they both right to pick Henderson and Fabinho in midfield?
There was agreement between Carragher and Neville when it came to the two-man midfield and it went firmly in Liverpool’s favour with Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.
Both players are certainly enjoying their seasons, with strong stats. Fabinho is excellent when it comes to tackling and winning duels, while Henderson’s accuracy with passing is right up there in the league.
But there is certainly a case for Paul Pogba occupying one of those midfield spots, potentially ahead of either Henderson or Fabinho.
Fabinho (left) and Jordan Henderson (right) keep tabs on Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha
The Frenchman has set up seven goals in eight league games, maintains an 85 per cent passing accuracy and creates far more chances than the Liverpool pair.
It’s also interesting to note that Pogba has recovered possession for United more than Henderson and Fabinho have for Liverpool, albeit having played more games.
The one caveat to this is that Pogba has split his time this season between central midfield and playing on the left of United’s attack, where he has more scope to create chances and supply assists.
Paul Pogba has enjoyed a positive start to the season – certainly creatively – for Man United
Certainly all three are ahead of Fred, who has appeared in six United league games this season but often looks off the pace.
In Fred’s defence, he tenacity does mean he wins the ball back quite often but his low tackle success rate suggests he is easily knocked off the ball.
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