No changes from Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez today for the trip to Old Trafford. Eight changes from Alex Ferguson, which should (but won’t) finally end the never-ending focus on Rafa’s rotation policy.
For Liverpool the back four has Aurelio and Arbeloa at full-back, Carragher and Skrtel in the middle. Many expected Carra to be at right-back for a more defensive outlook to the game, but Rafa is happy to stick with the team that won last-time out.
It’s the same formation that has been used in the recent winning run, Mascherano and Alonso partners in central-midfield with Steven Gerrard part of the row of three that support top-scorer Fernando Torres. The other two are Dutch pair Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt.
For United Wayne Rooney plays, the Scouser who seems happy listening to songs from the Stretford End declaring how much they hate Scousers, even when Liverpool aren’t playing. Ronaldo is United’s top scorer and also starts, one of just three who played in United’s last league game.
Liverpool’s need for three points comes from their aim of getting a top-four finish, Everton’s draw yesterday means that defeat today for Liverpool gives their most-local rivals a chance of leapfrogging them in next week’s derby. For United it’s the title they are aiming for, and the other top-four sides play each other later in the day.
Referee Steve Bennett can’t have failed to have missed the worried noises coming from Alex Ferguson over the course of the week, whether he’s got the ability to referee the game openly remains to be seen. Mind games are almost over now though, and it’s time for the players to show what they’re capable of.
Manchester United: 1 Van der Sar, 6 Brown, 5 Ferdinand, 15 Vidic, 3 Evra, 7 Ronaldo, 18 Scholes, 16 Carrick, 8 Anderson, 11 Giggs, 10 Rooney
Subs: 29 Kuszczak, 4 Hargreaves, 17 Nani, 22 O’Shea, 32 Tevez
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 12 Aurelio, 20 Mascherano, 14 Alonso, 18 Kuyt, 8 Gerrard, 19 Babel, 9 Torres
Subs: 30 Itandje, 4 Hyypia, 6 Riise, 11 Benayoun, 15 Crouch
Referee: Steve Bennett
Kick-off: 1.30pm GMT