Such is the impact Sadio Mane has made on Liverpool that he is an automatic pick to face Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League tomorrow while experienced international teammates scrap it out to play alongside him.
With the 24-year-old Senegalese on the right flank, Liverpool look a potent attacking force but without him they offer a much paler threat and were uninspiring in his absence in last week’s 2-0 defeat at promoted Burnley.
That result doused the optimism flowing from their opening 4-3 win at Arsenal, in which the £30-million (R563-million) signing from Southampton produced an early contender for goal of the season.
Juergen Klopp’s side return to north London tomorrow after the fit-again Mane inspired their 5-0 League Cup win over Burton Albion on Tuesday.
One particular moment of sorcery, when he jinked past a bewildered fullback to set up Divock Origi’s opener, showed why he is inked into the teamsheet.
The last Liverpool signing to make anything like that immediate impact was Luis Suarez in 2011.
The Uruguayan formed a deadly partnership with Daniel Sturridge, but the English striker is no longer a guaranteed starter and Klopp will probably select one from Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Origi, all of whom scored against Burton, as Mane’s partner at White Hart Lane.
“Origi and Sturridge both performed, yes . . . and Roberto,” Klopp said after the Burton game.
“It’s my job to find the right solution. The job the players have to do, is be in the best shape they can be.” With Philippe Coutinho certain to return, Klopp is juggling formations as well as personnel in search of the lineup to bury Liverpool’s reputation as the league’s most inconsistent performers.
That charge could never be levelled against a Jose Mourinho side and he takes Manchester United to Hull City with both teams having won their opening two games.
Even Hull’s most loyal supporters would not have predicted such a start, many fearing early humiliation after a turbulent summer in which their manager Steve Bruce left and Mike Phelan took over in a caretaker capacity.
But Phelan learnt how not to panic in his five years as United assistant manager under Alex Ferguson and a win against his former club would probably seal him a permanent deal as a takeover by a Chinese investor group seems to be nearing completion.
Chelsea and Manchester City are the Premier League’s other unbeaten teams and both are well capable of extending that record at home to Burnley and West Ham United respectively.
Chelsea’s Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi is another £30-million player and he will hope his double in the 3-2 League Cup win over Bristol Rovers will secure him a starting spot.