The bravest boy in Ar­gentina

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

ALEX FER­GU­SON once de­scribed Liver­pool ver­sus Manch­ester United as the big­gest fix­ture in club foot­ball and to­day’s clash at An­field has been made all the more in­trigu­ing by the de­bate over the form of Wayne Rooney.

United’s cap­tain, dropped to the bench by man­ager Jose Mourinho for his club’s last three fix­tures, suf­fered the same fate with Eng­land dur­ing last week’s goal­less draw away to Slove­nia in a World Cup qual­i­fier.

Rooney has faced heavy crit­i­cism lately, yet Liver­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp is still wary of the for­ward cum mid­fielder, who scored the only goal as United won in the Premier League at An­field in Jan­uary.

“I know a lot of what ev­ery­body thinks at this mo­ment about Wayne Rooney and I can­not think the same things, even as the man­ager of Liver­pool FC,” said Klopp.

“He is 30 years old and has had a very long and more than a de­cent ca­reer in the Premier League. The longer you are part of some­thing, the more peo­ple know about you and think they can say about you,” the Ger­man added.

“Why does any­body think that Jose Mourinho is blind from one sec­ond to the other and says, ‘OK, he’s not good enough any more but he’s still play­ing’? Or why do they think Sam Al­lardyce (the for­mer Eng­land man­ager) did it, or why Gareth South­gate (the in­terim Eng­land boss) did it? They all know about his qual­ity and know about his value for each team he plays in.”

De­spite Klopp’s kind words, Rooney may well have to set­tle for a place among the sub­sti­tutes again as United seek to deny Liver­pool a vic­tory that would see the Merseysiders go level on points with Premier League lead­ers Manch­ester City.

As well as Rooney’s form, an­other sub-plot that has emerged in the build-up to the game con­cerns ref­eree An­thony Tay­lor.

The fact Tay­lor is based in Manch­ester has led to com­plaints about the of­fi­cial’s ob­jec­tiv­ity, even though he sup­ports nonleague Al­trin­cham.

For­mer top-flight ref­eree Keith Hack­ett said Tay­lor should not have been put in charge of the match as the “fo­cus on him would be in­tol­er­a­ble” should he make an er­ror to­day.

Mean­while, some Liver­pool fans have sug­gested that Tay­lor ought to get the same treat­ment as Kevin Friend.

The Le­ices­ter-based ref­eree was re­moved from Tot­ten­ham’s game at Stoke in April, with Spurs then bat­tling the Foxes, the even­tual cham­pi­ons, for the ti­tle, in or­der to pre­vent ac­cu­sa­tions of bias.

A con­cerned Mourinho, not averse to crit­i­cis­ing ref­er­ees, sug­gested the pre-match scru­tiny had done Tay­lor few favours.

“I think Mr Tay­lor is a very good ref­eree but I think some­body with in­ten­tion is putting such a pres­sure on him that I feel that it will be dif­fi­cult for him to have a very good per­for­mance,” he said.

Liver­pool go into to­day’s game seek­ing to end a run of four straight league de­feats against their bit­ter north­west rivals, but hav­ing also knocked United out of last sea­son’s Europa League.

Klopp, whose team left it late to gain a 2-1 vic­tory at Swansea in their last league match, is hope­ful that Ge­orginio Wi­j­nal­dum (hip) and Adam Lal­lana (groin) will re­cover from in­jury prob­lems in time to fea­ture to­day.

Mourinho is hope­ful that left-back Luke Shaw (groin) and mid­fielder Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan (thigh) will be avail­able to play at An­field fol­low­ing their re­cent in­juries.

United suf­fered a run of three suc­ces­sive de­feats last month, but con­sec­u­tive wins across three com­pe­ti­tions against Northamp­ton, Le­ices­ter and Zo­rya Luhansk calmed the panic, although a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke be­fore the in­ter­na­tional break stalled the re­cov­ery.

Mourinho, who has won one and lost three of his pre­vi­ous five meet­ings with Klopp, will hope for an im­prove­ment at An­field.

United for­ward Jesse Lin­gard, seek­ing to main­tain per­sonal mo­men­tum af­ter he made his Eng­land de­but dur­ing the re­cent in­ter­na­tional break, said: “It’ll be tough be­cause they (Liver­pool) have got a lot tal­ent in their group, but we know we’ve got tal­ent in our own ranks.

“We’ll be push­ing to win the game as it’s al­ways good to get one over your rivals.” – Su­per­Sport

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