LONDON: Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney’s Everton connections meant he was already in for a rough ride from Liverpool fans this weekend but last week’s family problems and England sending-off should crank up the decibels of abuse at Anfield.
Liverpool host Rooney’s table-topping United in one of the glamour fixtures of the Premier League in the early kickoff on Saturday (1145 GMT) and the usual fierce rivalry between the north-west neighbours will now have extra spice.
Rooney will miss the start of Euro 2012 after being dismissed for a wild kick in England’s 2-2 draw in Montenegro on Friday, just after his father and uncle had been arrested and bailed over an alleged betting scam which they deny.
The Liverpool-born former Everton striker will run the gauntlet at a noisy Anfield but has proved time and again he can overcome adversity.
English Premier League
A 2006 World Cup red card failed to knock his blistering career off course and he has recovered from last season’s dip in form and bizarre contract wrangle to rediscover his mojo with nine league goals from seven matches this term.
United manager Alex Ferguson, perhaps pleased that England coach Fabio Capello has said Rooney will not start any friendlies in the build-up to Euro 2012, was not overly worried by his main forward’s lack of self-control.
“He has been tackled and he has reacted,” the champions’ boss told a U.S. radio station.
“He has this fiery temper which, to my mind, is not the worst thing in the world. He has shown tremendous improvement in his temperament and his reactions to tackles and things over the past few years. He is improving all the time.”
Two players who were not away with England because of a lack of fitness, United centre back Rio Ferdinand and Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard, will be desperate to return to the starting lineup in a game Liverpool won 3-1 last term.
One man unlikely to return to action this weekend is Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez, who is back in England after a spell in Argentina following his suspension for allegedly refusing to come on in a Champions League game.
His future is still up in the air but City boss Roberto Mancini will hope to ignore the distraction as his side, level on points with United having scored just a goal fewer, welcome seventh-placed Aston Villa on Saturday (1400).
Third-placed Chelsea, three points behind the Manchester duo, host Everton with fellow Londoners Arsenal eager to kick-start a stuttering season against Sunderland and their under-pressure boss Steve Bruce at the Emirates on Sunday (1230).
Newcastle United’s surprisingly good start to the season which sees them in fourth place will be tested by visiting Tottenham Hotspur who are sixth after winning four games in a row having opened with defeats by the Manchester clubs.
The Liverpool-United clash is not the only north-west derby on Saturday as struggling Wigan Athletic welcome neighbours Bolton Wanderers (1400) who need a run-of-the-mill game to climb off the bottom after playing all the top teams.
West Bromwich Albion, just above Wigan and Bolton, also entertain Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday (1100) in central England’s “Black Country” derby.