Jordan Henderson “a doubt” for Man United clash despite injury progress

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Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson remains a doubt for Liverpool’s trip to take on Manchester United on Saturday, according to reports.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - Friday, July 24, 2015: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson in action against a Malaysia XI during a friendly match at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on day twelve of the club's preseason tour. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jordan Henderson could miss out on Liverpool’s vital top-four clash with Manchester United this weekend, with reports suggesting that the captain is still struggling with a heel injury.

This is despite strong progress in his recovery, say the Liverpool Echo.

“Henderson has responded positively to treatment on the heel injury which forced him to miss the past two league games against Arsenal and West Ham,” James Pearce writes.

“However, the 25-year-old midfielder remains a doubt for the trip to Old Trafford and no decision will be made on his participation until later in the week.”

Henderson was withdrawn midway through Liverpool’s 1-0 win over AFC Bournemouth last month, and his absence has forced manager Brendan Rodgers to alter his tactical setup, with a 4-3-3 formation resulting in a 0-0 draw away to Arsenal and a 3-0 loss at home to West Ham United.

The Reds have clearly felt the loss of their captain, and not having him at his disposal against United will be a major blow for Rodgers.

Henderson is Liverpool’s midfield lynchpin, and while stand-in anchor Lucas Leiva performed well against Arsenal, the Brazilian is far removed from the energetic, high-pressing former Sunderland man.

The blossoming chemistry between Henderson and fellow dynamo James Milner was a key influence in Liverpool’s opening victories over Stoke City and Bournemouth.

With United looking to employ a measured passing game in the middle of the park, Rodgers will need to rely on the vitality of his midfield players if he is to be hopeful of gaining a priceless victory at Old Trafford.

Worryingly, Rodgers could also be without Adam Lallana for the short trip up the M62.

STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 9, 2015: Liverpool's substitutes Emre Can and Roberto Firmino warm-up before the Premier League match against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This could leave Liverpool to persevere with a midfield three of Lucas, Milner and Emre Can, but after a pair of performances at right-back for Germany during the international break, Can is confident of securing a long-term role in midfield by improving his game.

“I think every player aims to get in the starting XI so I work hard in training and I always try to show what I can do and impress the manager so he picks me,” he told LiverpoolFC.com this week.

“At the end of the day I think the competition for places is good for the team.

“I’m ready to take more responsibility as I’m in my second season. My English is improving and I’ve matured as a player.

“Playing in midfield means you have to take more responsibility. That means I want to score more goals and help the team to get results.”

A goal and a standout performance in midfield against United would be the perfect start for Can as he aims to find his place in Rodgers’ starting lineup.

Injury to Henderson may offer him the perfect opportunity to impress.

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