Saturday afternoon sees the big matchup of the weekend, with Manchester United taking on Liverpool at Old Trafford. When this fixture was played in mid-March last season, David Moyes was enduring a torrid time as United boss, while Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool were enjoying their best Premier League spell in years. That spell continued with this match; the visitors winning a comfortable 3-0 victory, with club captain Steven Gerrard scoring two penalties and missing a third and the influential Luis Suarez killing off any hopes the hosts might have had with a goal six minutes from time.
Last season, this win cemented Liverpool’s title credentials with a resounding win over the reigning champions, moving them to within four points of leaders Chelsea, with a game in hand. This season, it’s a very different story; United are slowly finding their form under new boss Louis Van Gaal, whereas Liverpool are a shadow of themselves last season, lacking Suarez and with new signings in defence no better than the ones that eventually cost LFC the title last year.
To see what fans of both Clubs may be thinking about the fixture this season, we looked at the Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football data from this game last season, to see what players were picked for the lineups last year.
Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football is a game similar to “Football Manager”, but applied to live football, where you manage your favourite Club and pick lineups, bench, formations and substitutions, all in real-time. When fans play the game, the Beat Your Manager team can measure the popularity of different players, by looking at how frequently they are selected for the starting lineup, substitutes bench or not selected at all.
The app ran for the 2013/4 EPL season and is currently inactive while the developers are creating the revised version – watch this space!
Formation: Solid 4-4-2 by far the most popular choice with both sets of fans
Both MUFC and LFC fans were pretty much in agreement on the formation to pick for this game; a solid 4-4-2 winning out for both sides. 45 per cent of Man United fans opted for this setup, with a more attacking 4-3-3 formation in 2nd place but way behind, selected by just 18 per cent.
Similarly, 42 per cent of Liverpool fans also went for 4-4-2 and the more attacking 4-3-3 was also 2nd choice, this time by 26 per cent of Reds.
Goalkeeper: De Gea a comfortable first choice, but Mignolet doesn’t rest so easy
Fans of both Clubs did not go for any surprises in goal, with both team’s regular number 1 selected for duty; David De Gea in for Man United with an emphatic 96 per cent rating, making him the club’s 2nd-most popular player for this match.
Simon Mignolet was the goalkeeper of choice for Liverpool fans, with a substantially lower 78 per cent rating, ranking him 7th out of the starting 11.
Both real-life Managers agreed with fans, going for the identical options between the posts.
Defence: One switch between both sets of fans and the Manager
Patrice Evra was United’s most popular defender (and 3rd-most popular player) with MUFC fans, polling a 95 per cent rating for the lineup.
Nemanja Vidić was some way behind Evra, on 77 per cent, with Rio Ferdinand (61 per cent) and Rafael (55 per cent) making up the other two spots.
With José Enrique injured, Liverpool fans had a similarly dispersed rating scale for their defenders, Martin Skrtel the club’s most popular defender and 4th most popular player, on a 93 per cent rating from Reds fans.
Glen Johnson (77 per cent) was further behind Skrtel, with Daniel Agger next on 67 per cent and Mamadou Sakho (45 per cent) just taking the final position in the back four with fans.
Moyes made one change to the fans’ lineup, employing Phil Jones (51 per cent fan rating) instead of Ferdinand, while Rodgers similarly made one switch from the fans, with Jon Flanagan (40 per cent fan rating) in for Sakho.
Midfield: Gerrard the star of the show with LFC fans and Manager
Juan Mata was United’s most popular midfielder, with an impressive 93 per cent rating approval, making him the club’s 5th most popular player for this match.
Michael Carrick was substantially behind Mata, but still got the nod from two-thirds of United fans, with Marouane Fellaini getting a slightly-above average 51 per cent rating from fans. Tom Cleverley took up the fourth midfielder spot, on a very poor 39 per cent rating from MUFC fans.
Similarly to United, Liverpool fans had a clear midfield favourite in Gerrard, also jointly the club’s most popular player for this match, with a perfect 100 per cent fan rating and the club captain rewarded both fans and Manager with two goals, both penalties.
Philippe Coutinho (92 per cent) was a close second, with Jordan Henderson (90 per cent) in third place. After Henderson, approval ratings dropped away, but Raheem Sterling still got a very respectable 74 per cent from LFC fans.
Just as with the defence, both sets of Managers made a single switch to the fans’ midfield lineups; Moyes going for Adnan Januzaj (30 per cent fan rating) instead of Cleverley, with Rodgers opting to rest fan-pick Coutinho and instead fielded Joe Allen (only 12 per cent fan rating).
Forwards: SAS the natural choice upfront
Both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge got perfect 100 per cent ratings with LFC fans for this game, making them jointly (with Gerrard) Liverpool’s most popular players. They were also the natural choice for Rodgers upfront for this game and Suarez rewarded both fans and Manager with the final goal of the match.
United’s 1st choice forwards did not do badly with fans; Wayne Rooney was extremely close behind the Liverpool front two, on a 96 per cent rating with Red Devils fans, while his colleague Robin van Persie was snapping at his heels, at 94 per cent. Moyes agreed with fans and Rooney-van Persie started, but couldn’t find the net on a day that ended in disappointment and frustration for the hosts.
Fan-selected lineup, bench, not selected ratings for Man United vs. Liverpool 2013-14 EPL Season: