Rooney ready for Anfield

Posted by Mark Payne

Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesWayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard will renew acquaintances this weekend at Anfield.

Manchester United and Liverpool are going to have to get used to each other. This weekend's league match precedes their meeting in the Capital One Cup in three weeks' time. The game is United's second big fixture of the week and, after the stalemate against Chelsea, they will be seeking goals and a victory. Liverpool, on the other hand, can go top of the league if they win.

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David Moyes has never won a league game at Anfield. Last season, his Everton side left the stadium after a 0-0 draw but maintained their lead over Liverpool in the table. Liverpool have started brightly this season but Moyes knows that a win for United would see them leapfrog the Liverpudlians in the table. United should get it, too.

Liverpool's chief headline grabber, Luis Suarez, remains suspended for this game, and new signing Kolo Toure picked up an injury in their midweek clash with Notts County. On Sunday, they will be relying on Daniel Sturridge to continue his run of form up front and Daniel Agger to assume defensive duties.

That victory over Notts County is sure to have an effect on Liverpool. Despite this early stage of the season, several of their numbers played the full match including extra time and will be tired by the time United arrive. Moyes will also have noted that a team from League One was able to score twice at Anfield and almost snatch a victory.

Stylistically, Liverpool should present a similar challenge to Swansea, Brendan Rogers' former club. Rather than the stifle-and-extinguish tactics that Chelsea deployed at Old Trafford, Liverpool will look to impose their fluid play on the game. In theory, United should have superior players and ought to overrun them.

Wayne Rooney will be up for it. He was superb on Monday and Moyes was keen to sing his praises in Friday's press conference. "He's in good shape," said the manager. It must be a relief to finally start talking about the football. Rooney's prospective move to Chelsea appears to be dead in the water, and a good performance on Sunday should have everybody concentrating on his football for a change.

If Rooney maintains his form, and Robin van Persie plays half as well as he is capable of, then United should emerge from Anfield victorious. Of course, this is far easier said than done. Anfield is sure to be at maximum emotional charge Sunday as the occasion falls near to what would have been Bill Shankly's 100th birthday.

Football matches between these clubs are rarely short of incident. It is a fixture that has produced 14 red cards in the past 20 years and several last-minute winners too, most of them for United.

On Sunday, Moyes and United will take a winner at any minute they can get it. It has been a difficult month for United off the field and they are keen to let their football do the talking. Even Shankly would approve of that.

Follow Mark on www.twitter.com/markjpayne

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