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FootballMan United v Liverpool: Kambwala given full home debut as Antony, Mount,...

Man United v Liverpool: Kambwala given full home debut as Antony, Mount, Eriksen on bench

Manchester United gave 19-year-old Willy Kambwala his full home debut in Erik ten Hag’s team to face Liverpool on Sunday, positioning the centre-back at the heart of a defence tasked with trying to stop the likes of Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz and Mac Allister among their opponents’ prolific ranks.

France youth international Kambwala’s only previous start for United came in their 2-0 defeat at West Ham on December 23, but he was restored to the line-up in the absence of the likes of Raphael Varane, Jonny Evans, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof through injury.

Ten Hag had handed Kambwala a total of 47 minutes on the pitch since his debut, including two appearances lasting a minute.

Liverpool arrived a point behind leaders Arsenal with a game in hand, having won twice in succession since their 4-3 extra-time defeat at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

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The Reds had been linked with a move for Sochaux academy product Kambwala before the Democratic Republic of Congo-born prospect joined United in October 2020.

Kambwala sustained an injury in a friendly against Salford City shortly after he joined, ruling him out of action for 11 months.

Willy Kambwala on his ‘dream’

Kambwala’s senior home bow came with a brief outing in United’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa on December 26, which he called “the best experience I’ve had in football”.

“I know I started against West Ham but playing at Old Trafford is something else,” he added to the club. “To be able to be on the pitch that day – what a game.

“The dream was about Man United, and that’s it. No other club. I wasn’t thinking about [playing in] England, I was just thinking about Man United.

“I don’t know why but, since as far back as I can remember, it was just Man United. I couldn’t watch [that much] football but it was Man United, Man United all the time.

“That’s the dream I had. So to be here was just so special to me because it was the thing I wanted.”

Sixth-placed United are 22 points behind Liverpool and nine shy of the fifth position which is likely to ensure Uefa Champions League football in 2024/25, depending on co-efficient rankings.

Mason Mount, who is returning from injury, joined winger Antony and playmaker Christian Eriksen among the senior players on United’s bench as they aimed to recover from a last-gasp 4-3 defeat at Chelsea and win for the first time in three Premier League matches.

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