By Mark Young
It has been one hell of a wait for this encounter as by the time Liverpool and Manchester United kick off on Saturday lunchtime it will have almost been two weeks since both teams played. The international break has proved to be somewhat annoying.
United face a tough test on Saturday as they have lost their last three games at Anfield but they will want revenge. The manner in which they were humbled by Dalglish’s Liverpool at the end of last season was uneasy viewing. They looked lethargic but the difference maker that day was definitely Luis Suarez even though Dirk Kuyt got himself a hat trick of tap ins. The Uruguayan will once again need to be watched by a United defence that has looked shaky in recent weeks. Norwich were beaten 2-0 by the champions but it was a tough game for United as Norwich should have taken the lead on a couple of occasions but they ground out the victory in the end thanks to an Anderson header and a Danny Welbeck goal. On the other hand, Liverpool won the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park by the same score line. Suarez notched a goal that day as did his strike partner, 35 million pound striker, Andy Carroll. But the game all changed when Jack Rodwell was wrongly dismissed with a straight red card in the first half which was eventually rescinded but the damage had already been done. Dalglish will want to carry this form on at home to the side that recently overtook them as the most successful team in the English top division with 19 titles to their name to Liverpool’s 18. At the same time, Fergie wants number twenty and with six wins from seven games so far he is in pole position to get this.
Team Selection Thoughts
Both teams have players returning this weekend from injury and it will be interesting to see how they line up and who gets left out. Steven Gerrard returned for Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby as a second half substitute and will be pushing for a start against their bitterest of rivals. Will Dalglish continue with the front two of Suarez and Carroll or will he replace one of them with their captain or will Lucas, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson or Stewart Downing be replaced? This is one of the questions that need answering by the Liverpool boss.
Ferguson could potentially welcome back Nemanja Vidic to his team. Vidic played for Serbia mid week and missed a penalty before he retired from international football. The United skipper should return and is likely to start alongside Rio Ferdinand who is also returning. Jones has been outstanding this season and made his debut at right back for England last Friday. He could start there against Liverpool with Rafael and Chris Smalling also in contention. Rafael is an unlikely option due to a lack of football leaving a straight choice between Jones and Smalling. Smalling is the more conservative option. With Cleverley unavailable Carrick, Anderson and Fletcher will by vying for the central midfield roles. If Sir Alex decides on a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation the three of aforementioned midfielders will start. One other selection issue for the manager is whether to start Welbeck or Hernandez up front with Wayne Rooney if the preferred system is 4-4-2/4-4-1-1. Welbeck scored against Norwich and the little Mexican impressed in the recent International against Brazil and will be buzzing as he was the last Man United player to score at Anfield. The Manchester born striker has started the season extremely well, so he may earn the nod on Saturday, however 4-5-1/4-3-3 maybe Sir Alex’s preferred option thereby reducing the space allowed in central areas, which has been a common theme during the early part of the campaign.
Wayne Rooney learnt his fate on Thursday after a red card against Montenegro has now been ruled out of the group stages of the European championships. He will want to do some talking on the pitch to shut up some of his critics and there is no better stage for the Everton fan than at Anfield. He must feel he is due a goal there.
Three Key Battles
Luis Suarez vs. Nemanja Vidic
Suarez ran circles around United last season and could prove the difference again but Vidic will want to keep him quiet. He suffered disappointment with not qualifying with Serbia in the week but will now have his mind set on winning at Anfield. He hasn’t fared too well against Liverpool over the years and Suarez will want to get the better of the Serbian as he did the entire United defence just a few short months ago.
Jamie Carragher vs. Wayne Rooney
Carragher will be the man charged with keeping the on fire Wayne Rooney quiet. Rooney doesn’t have a set position but he will be causing havoc in between Liverpool’s midfield and defence. Rooney is out to prove a point and relishes playing at Anfield and would love nothing more than to silence the Kop but he will have to get past the determined Carragher first.
Martin Kelly vs. Ashley Young
Martin Kelly has been outstanding for Kenny Dalglish and has rightly got himself the starting right back position. He is a good prospect for both Liverpool and England but he has a tough test against Ashley Young who is one of the first names on the United and England team sheets. Scoring goals and creating them is what he has been doing all season and is a key member for both club and country. This will be Young’s first game for United against Liverpool and there would be nothing better than a win to christen that.
United’s record at Anfield is not the greatest but they are playing some brilliant football this season. Liverpool have also improved and seem to lift their game against Fergie’s men. It will be a hard thought battle and it would not be a surprise to see a card or two. The away form needs improving from last season for United and this is one place where the taste of three points will be that much sweeter.
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