Manchester United open their U21s Barclays Premier League elite group campaign tonight as they welcome local north-west rivals Liverpool to their new home at the Salford City Stadium.
In a side which will see the likes of Larnell Cole, Tom Thorpe and Michael Keane step up to be the more experienced players in the squad, it is highly expected that United will use a bulk of their U18s squad from last year in their quest to retain their league title with the likes of James Wilson, Jack Barmby and Sam Byrne all set to feature.
Monday night may also see the competitive debut of United’s only summer signing so far in Guillermo Varela, the Uruguayan U20 international who is hotly tipped to rise through the ranks at the club in the coming seasons to challenge his South American counterpart Rafael Da Silva for the starting position at right back.
Down the River Mersey, Liverpool have been boosted by the first team acquisitions of Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto but their second string looks to have had no real makeover. However, similar to United, it is expected that Liverpool will try to mould experience with youth and give a lot of last years U18s a chance.
United were unbeaten against Liverpool on three occasions last season as a late Mikael Fornasier goal gave United the win in the away tie and a John Flanagan own goal claimed United a point in the home leg. United then went on to face Liverpool a week later in the Elite League group semi-finals triumphing 3-0 thanks to a Larnell Cole hat-trick.
Tonight will be a good tester for the relatively new look United team as they look to send out a big message to the rest of the teams looking to take their title away from them in the 2013/14 season.