That was a pretty terrible international break as far as United players were concerned. Rooney took centre stage against Montenegro after his impetuous kick out saw a straight red which has ruled him out of England’s entire group stage at Euro 2012. The return to football for Vidic should of been a happy occasion but missing a penalty that ultimately stopped Serbia from qualifying for Euro 2012 was quickly followed by his announcement to retire from international football (a wise move considering he is 30). Patrice Evra picked up an injury playing for France, Nani was on the wrong side of a defeat to the Danish that put Portugal in the playoffs and Fabio injured himself on duty for Brazil. Ashley Young‘s headed goal was probably one of the only positives that came out of this break and the football season is really hotting up now, with an away trip to the Dippers for United on their return.
Anfield has not been the best of places for United over recent years having lost on the past 3 occasions, last year being the worlds worst hat-trick™ courtesy of Dirk Kuyt. The fixture on Saturday is shaping up to be a real occasion, with both sets of fans confident that their side can claim victory. United will be looking to build on their near flawless start to the season and the return of Vidic, Ferdinand and possibly Cleverley to the squad is well timed. Given, it is probably unlikely that we will see Tom return to the fold for such an important fixture but I am itching to see him back in the starting line-up. He and Anderson were at the core of United’s sensational attacking and since he has been injured, Anderson has suffered a dip in form. Defensively, the return of our captain and best defender is the best news we could of asked for. Our defence, against Norwich most notably, has had terrible organisation and the opposition has benefitted, with United struggling to keep clean sheets by shutting other teams out. Who will partner Vidic? I think it is likely SAF will risk putting Ferdinand beside him but our Mr. Reliable of old needs to put in a vintage performance if he is to force Jones back out of the team. The leadership of Nemanja is what Jones has been missing, with all the youthful exuberance in defence playing a major part in it’s downfall in recent weeks. If we can find a return to our almost impenetrable defence from last season and combine it with the attacking prowess found this season, then we should be considered title favourites.
Liverpool is never an easy away fixture, least not under the mini revival of Kenny Dalglish. The return of Steven Gerrard to their starting line-up will probably galvanise them even more and United’s defence will have to be water tight and not allow Suarez any room because although he is one of the biggest twats to have ‘graced’ the Premier League in recent years, he is a very talented player. Looking at it on paper though, United should be looking at this fixture and thinking they can win it. The signing of a new and improved contract for Hernandez should give him the confidence that he has a major future at United, despite Madrid sniffing at his heels. Rooney will desperately want to vindicate himself after Montenegro and playing with Hernandez tends to bring out the best in him. SAF may choose to reward Welbeck with a start after his impressive consistency and his defensive contributions could be key to controlling the midfield.
What do I think the score will be? This one is extremely hard to predict. No doubt Dalglish will be telling his team to fire in from long range to try and catch De Gea out but they have missed the boat on that one, with our Spanish shot stopper showing signs of his world class potential. The game will be won or lost in the middle of the pitch on Saturday. SAF can choose from Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs, Park and possibly Cleverley to partner Anderson so your guess is as good as mine. We just need some good ball retention and to make sure that Liverpool are always chasing the game. A lot will depend on how well our defence performs with my eyes firmly fixed on Evra if he starts, given that he has been very poor in the past few games. We will get punished against.Liverpool if he puts in another poor shift. The counter-attacking capabilities of a team that includes Rooney, Young, Hernandez, Nani and Welbeck are there for everyone to see and I can’t see the likes of Carragher and Skrtel handling us for 90 minutes. I can’t imagine anything but a tight affair on Saturday so I am going to go for a 2-1/3-1 victory, with Young to get on the score sheet. I think that if we are going to walk away with victory then Wayne Rooney is going to have to put in a man of the match performance but if there was ever a game for him to do it, it is Liverpool away.