Why Fabinho should NOT start against Manchester United

So, who would have pictured it? 21 games in, 61 points in total, top of the league by 14 points and looking pretty undefeatable. I think it’s safe to say that nobody would have expected this before a ball had been kicked.

Now obviously, and rightly so, the front three get a lot of praise — as do our flying full-backs, Alisson and Virgil van Dijk. As well as them, much has been made this season about the importance of Fabinho in the heart of our midfield, and that cannot be understated.

The Brazilian has been a rock — snuffing out attacks, setting up counters and, as seen against City, also grabbing an important goal along the way. His performances have seen him become one of, if not the best holding midfielder in the world.

That said, I am hoping Jürgen Klopp does not rush him back into the starting XI and keeps him on the bench for this weekend’s fixture against Manchester United.

My reasoning is simple — Jordan Henderson.

Cast your minds back to November 27 and the UEFA Champions League group stage stalemate against Napoli. In the 19th minute disaster struck, Fabinho went down and his evening was over.

Following the game, rumours started to spread that the midfield destroyer would be out for a while until Klopp finally confirmed ‘he won’t play for the rest of [2019]’.

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With a crunch match against FC Salzburg, a Merseyside Derby, Club World Cup, away visit to Leicester and a game against Adama Traoré FC all on the horizon, I must admit I feared the worst.

Those fears were obviously for nothing, because guess who steps up to the plate for Liverpool yet again? Our captain, England’s Player Of The Year, the shuffling, trophy lifting, never-say-die No.14 that is Jordan Henderson.

Anyway, I think we all — including even the biggest Hendo-haters — must admit that he has been outstanding this season.

His partnership with Fabinho is one of the many reasons we had such a brilliant start to the season and, more importantly, the level of performance he has shown deputising for Fabinho in that holding role is a big part of the reason why we got through the Christmas period unscathed.


The former Sunderland man has been immense. Apart from never stopping running and constantly closing down the opposition, Henderson has been a wall in front of the Reds defence, and more so, he has at times single-handedly started attacks with his rather impressive array of passes.

He isn’t Trent Alexander-Arnold or Kevin de Bruyne, but the man can play a ball — let’s not get things twisted.

I know a few people might snap back at this and say ‘he was terrible against Spurs’, and to that I’ll concede that he was far from impressive at Tottenham.

However, Henderson was not playing the holding role in that one. It seemed to be Gini Wijnaldum and, due to that, I’m not including the below-par performance in north London within the reasoning for keeping Fabi benched on Sunday.

Henderson has shown an ability to excel wherever the team needs him to and Klopp clearly rates the lad and wholeheartedly trusts him — a perfect example of that being that the skipper has been used in more positions this year than so-called ‘utility man’ James Milner.

It is this ability to excel and his performances through the busy winter period that has brought me to the conclusion that Hendo should start in the holding role against United at the weekend and Fabinho should at most be on the bench.

The Brazilian’s quality is undoubtable, but the decision is quite logical when you take into consideration the level of performance by Hendo and combine it with fact that Fabinho will not be match fit.

If Klopp starts him, then there is a risk that we will see the Fabinho of early last season, despite his strong performances this year. The lad who wasn’t up to the speed of the Prem, at times looked lost and who was often a passenger in some games.

A fixture against Manchester United, regardless of their struggles, is not a match where you can take the risk of having a passenger.

I may be wrong. Fabinho is a world-class talent — he has integrated well, adapted unbelievably and, like I said prior, he is one of the world’s best, if not the best, when it comes to his position. He is more than capable of coming back from injury and hitting the ground running.

All I’m saying is that the risk of an injured player not being up to speed is always there, regardless of the quality. To that end, it’s not a risk I feel we need to take considering that Hendo has proved to be a quality option in his stead.

Do you agree with Matt? Have your say in the comments!

Matthew Ramirez

Podcast regular and match reporter. Gibraltarian of many opinions and defender of Jordan Henderson.

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