Sunday, March 23, 2008

Grand slam Sunday: Time for Rooney to deliver...

Ahead of the clash with fierce North West rivals Liverpool the team news for United fans is not good as Rio Ferdinand continues to have back problems. If the England defender does not recover in time to face the Merseyside Reds then it's likely Wes Brown or Gerard Pique will fill-in at centre-back. There's better news to report on the 'keeper situation as early reports suggest that Edwin Van der Sar is likely to return.

With Chelsea and Arsenal facing each other later in the day it's vital that United take all three points from what is always a hard fought contest. The best result for United on what has been billed by Sky Sports as Grand Slam Sunday would be for the Red Devils to beat Liverpool and for Chelsea to draw with Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. If results go to plan for United, it would be a great platform for the Reds to push home their advantage in the final weeks of the season.

If United are to win today they will need to ensure that they do their utmost to ensure that Fernando Torres is kept in check. While the Reds have an impressive home record, there has been some alarming reverses this season, against Man City the team did not function in any way shape or form in what was an abject performance on the day, sans banned Wayne Rooney.

Pompey knocked the Reds out of the FA Cup, after delivering a sucker-punch late on in a game that the home to team should have won comfortably. Earlier this week against Derby at Pride Park United were wasteful in front of goal and worryingly less than rock solid at the back - the excellent Ben Foster had to produce two top drawer saves to deny the Rams. Against Bolton in midweek, while the Reds were able to rely upon the brilliance of Ronaldo the visitors came back into the game in the second-half with United unable to push home their first-half advantage.

Rafa Benitez will be fully aware of any perceived weaknesses in United's recent performances and no doubting today's visitors to Old Trafford will be seeking to exploit any gaps at the back, in particular Fergie will be stressing to his defenders that they must not get caught on the counter-attack.

Ferguson will be keen for his team to win the battle for control of midfield and to that end it's likely that United will start with Carlos Tevez on the bench, which could lead to a midfield stalemate. If that happens then once again the Reds will have to rely on Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney who has the chance to dent Liverpool's hopes of securing a Champions League place - to that end on-looking Evertonian's will no doubt be jumping for joy if their former star can help put one over on their bitter local rivals. The England striker is due a goal and today it could be a case of perfect timing if his goals secure all three points for the home team and for this Red that will more than make up for him missing the Manchester derby through suspension. It is time for Rooney to deliver.

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