Having seen unbeaten starts to the season vanish in disappointing fashion before the international break, Manchester United and Liverpool renew their rivalry in what promises to be a fiery Saturday evening contest.
Wayne Rooney achieved the inevitable yet sublime on Tuesday by becoming the England national team’s record goalscorer and taking his tally beyond Bobby Charlton’s long-standing tally of 49, but here he will be looking to rouse his Man Utd teammates for a fixture in which he has excelled in years gone by. They will be desperate to right the wrongs of the defeat away to Swansea City, where their seemingly strong grip on the game was undone within the space of just a few second half minutes.
Juan Mata’s goal just after the break in South Wales had the look of a potentially decisive goal on the day, with United dominating possession and constantly putting pressure on a side that aims to play out from the back. However, the in-form Swans were able to expose the vulnerabilities that still exist at the back, with goalkeeper Sergio Romero emerging with little credit. Should he return, David De Gea will offer a more reassuring presence between the posts after the collapse of his proposed move to Real Madrid.
Meanwhile, there was a considerable amount of optimism at Liverpool regarding their back four going into the game against West Ham United last time out, with clean sheets having been earned in the club’s opening three matches. But the defensive horror show which gifted the Hammers a resounding 3-0 victory brought their shortcomings sharply back into focus, as mistakes from Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and youngster Joe Gomez all led to goals.
The result and the shambolic nature of the performance has also piled the pressure back on manager Brendan Rodgers and cast doubt on whether they are in any better shape than last season. The Northern Irishman needs a strong showing here to silence the critics, and in Christian Benteke they certainly have a striker capable of unsettled the United defence, although there will be no Philippe Coutinho to provide him with the ammunition.
The odds on De Gea returning to the United starting XI have shortened after he signed a new contract on Friday. The world’s most expensive teenager, Anthony Martial, could make his debut, but there are doubts over Michael Carrick, who withdrew from the England squad.
Daniel Sturridge is back in training for Liverpool but this match comes too soon for him. As well as Coutinho, they may also be without fellow midfielders Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana.
Last Meeting: Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was dropped in favour of Brad Jones for a Liverpool side who paid the price for several missed chances and eventually found themselves on the end of a 3-0 loss. Wayne Rooney grabbed the first from the edge of the penalty area as Jones dived the wrong way, before an offside Juan Mata headed in from close range. Poor defending allowed Robin van Persie to make it three 19 minutes from the end.
Played for both – Paul Ince: The influential midfielder joined Man Utd in 1989 and was at the club during the first three seasons of the Premier League, helping to win the competition twice by scoring 19 goals in 116 appearances before leaving in acrimonious circumstances in 1995. Two years after that he moved to Liverpool, netting 14 goals in 65 games but failing to add another winner’s medal to his collection.