A tale of two strikers: Misfiring Rooney & Torres to meet at OT
The eagerly-anticipated grudge match between Manchester United and Liverpool, both champions of England on 18 occasions, appears to have turned amicable this year.
Bonds exist between these two clubs. Roy Hodgson is a close friend of Sir Alex Ferguson with the pair sharing a healthy working relationship – a fact that was illustrated as the two managers exchanged compliments at their respective pre-match press conferences on Friday. It is a stark contrast to the very public animosity between Ferguson and former Liverpool boss Rafael BenÃƒÂtez.
Both sets of supporters are currently downcast over ownership issues. Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s reign at Anfield and the unrelenting Glazer family dynasty in Manchester have dampened the spirits of both sets of fans in recent years.
Then there is the stuttering form of headline acts Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres. United’s number ten hit the front pages of British newspapers in recent weeks with Ferguson making the controversial call to drop the former Everton forward for the familiar trip to Goodison Park last week.
Meanwhile, Hodgson’s star striker Torres has struggled to find any resemblance of form since returning from Spain’s triumphant World Cup campaign in South Africa.
Ferguson this week decided to appoint Nemanja Vidic as permanent United captain. It is a well-timed decision by the wily Scot and it may help his Serbian defender finally get a stranglehold on Torres; the striker has left Vidic reeling in recent encounters.
For the first time in a number of seasons Vidic must be the overwhelming favourite to win that particular battle. Torres looks in a fragile state, both physically and mentally, regardless of Hodgson’s unequivocal defence of his ailing star.
Skipper Steven Gerrard is expected to return to the fold with his partners in midfield to be decided between new signings Raul Merieles, Christian Poulsen and Lucas, who scored against Steaua Bucharest on Thursday.
United, who struggled to break down the resilient Rangers in midweek, are likely to field Dimitar Berbatov and Rooney in attack, with Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes and Patrice Evra all expected to feature in Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford.