Manchester United should be worried about Liverpool weapon that brought down Jose Mourinho – Liverpool Echo

A visit from Manchester United has proven to be the peak of Xherdan Shaqiri’s Liverpool career.

So far, at least.

It’s a little over two years since a second-half cameo resulted in two goals that gave Jurgen Klopp’s side a deserved win at Anfield.

It would be the result that marked the end of Jose Mourinho’s spell in charge at Old Trafford.

Just two days on from that 3-1 loss on Merseyside, Mourinho would be axed from his job.

For Shaqiri, he has yet to reach such heights since, for various reasons.

The start of the Switzerland international’s career with the Reds was good enough to force Klopp into a tactical tweak back in 2018.

Such was the mercurial attacker’s form, Klopp switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation to accommodate him alongside his much-vaunted front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

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In more recent times, the Liverpool boss has repeated the trick in an effort to include the marksmen in the same team as Diogo Jota.

But it was Shaqiri’s initial emergence that proved Klopp was flexible enough to add a fourth source of creativity to his attack if performances merited it.

Since then, however, there have been more troughs than peaks for Shaqiri at Liverpool.

He has featured for less than 90 minutes in the Premier League this season and hasn’t started a top-flight game since scoring in a 5-2 win over Everton in December 2019 at Anfield.

Injuries have largely contributed towards that, with the Swiss unable to make a telling impact in his limited cameos since.

And even when showing his enduring class at times, setbacks have never been too far away for the former Stoke City star.

Perhaps crucially, though, Shaqiri has never lost the ability to open up a tightly-packed low-block.

A defence-splitting pass to Trent Alexander-Arnold against Midtjylland to supply Jota with a tap-in back in October was majestic.

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His through ball for the Portuguese to bag a winner against West Ham later that week was even better.

A couple of assists against Aston Villa’s youth side in the FA Cup must be taken with a pinch of salt, but it was Shaqiri’s arrival – alongside fellow substitute Thiago Alcantara – that added a significant injection of creativity.

And creativity is a commodity that has been missing from Liverpool’s performances of late.

But if Klopp is going to gamble by attempting to give Shaqiri a prominent role against the Premier League leaders on Sunday, where might he best be deployed?

The 29-year-old would probably tell you he is at his sharpest on the right of a front three, where he is able to drift in field and cause havoc with his gifted left foot.

Given that is 17-goal top scorer Salah’s role, Shaqiri will nee further accommodation if he is to find a home in this Liverpool team.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah

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A return of the 4-2-3-1 could be an option with a midfield pivot behind him.

It would allow Shaqiri to operate centrally without too much importance placed on him spoiling for a fight in the midfield battle.

That, though, means some tough decisions would need to be made over who of a midfield trio would miss out.

Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum are two of the most trusted in the engine room, but the recent return of Thiago cannot be overlooked easily.

Playing the 4-2-3-1 to get Jota into the side earlier in the season was probably an easier call to make when Thiago was on the sidelines.

It would seem unlikely that either Henderson or Wijnaldum are left out when fully fit, but both Thiago and Shaqiri have made significant claims of their own in Friday’s 4-1 win at Villa Park.

So perhaps it comes down to a two-horse race between the pair?

On one hand, Shaqiri’s natural game would add some unpredictability to how Liverpool attack, but may also increase the workload on what would essentially become a two-man midfield.

On the other, a start for Thiago would see the hosts keep possession more but also heaps the goalscoring burden on the three up top.

That has rarely been too much of a problem for Klopp’s Liverpool, but there is little doubt they have looked jaded in their last three Premier League outings.

Shaqiri’s high point as a Liverpool player so far has come against Manchester United and Sunday’s crunch game could offer him the ideal chance to do it all over again.

As ever, Klopp has some major calls to grapple with.