|ROONEY THE LONE STRIKER|
When Rooney came on as a substitute in Manchester United's last Premier League game against Liverpool, the 1-1 draw in October, the striker entered the pitch subdued and never looked like making an impact. Hit by the blow of his three-match Euro 2012 ban only days earlier, he sullenly watched the game pass him by from midfield.
Played in a similarly deep position in matches against the likes of Otelul Galati and Everton in November, Sir Alex reacted to his side's 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Manchester City by reeling his most dangerous player in and hoping for goals to come from elsewhere.
|TWO GOALS IN 15 GAMES|
|ROONEY'S UNITED RECORD VS LIVERPOOL|
|GAMES PLAYED |
It simply betrays the striker's natural instincts to play second fiddle to others on his team. Indeed, Rooney's willingness to work for his colleagues is refreshing as it is highly-lauded, but it is in front of goal where his predatory nature is most suited.
The timing is ideal for the former Everton man to be given the freedom of the forward line, with Ashley Young and Nani both returning from injury battling for a place on the left flank, and Antonio Valencia, in his finest form for the club since breaking his ankle against Rangers in September 2010 and so often Rooney's ideal foil, controlling the right.
United may be at home on Saturday but have arguably found Liverpool a more challenging attacking threat than any other side save for Barcelona and Manchester City in the last 12 months. With Luis Suarez, Craig Bellamy and Stewart Downing all providing devastating pace down the flanks, the hosts will need the likes of Valencia to negate their influence by dropping into a midfield five on occasion.
And grabbing the goals? Rooney has already proven time and again that he's more than up to the task.
Statistics don’t win football matches but if Wayne Rooney's record alongside Danny Welbeck is anything to go by then Sir Alex Ferguson should look no further than to pick the England international strike duo against Liverpool on Saturday.
|THE DREAM TEAM|
Rooney’s tenacity and vigour, along with his undoubted natural ability, makes him the perfect compliment for the pacey Welback.
The former Sunderland loanee, meanwhile, is more than happy to do the running while his international compatriot pulls the strings with the ball at his feet.
With three in his last five Welbeck is certainly not short of form, while Rooney’s role as primary conductor in the comeback draw with Chelsea last weekend should ensure he is raring to fly out of the blocks – especially given the mutual ill-feeling shared between the former Everton man and Saturday’s visitors to Old Trafford.
Whatever central defensive combination Kenny Dalglish decides to go with, the movement and interplay involving Rooney and Welbeck should cause ample problems for the likes of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger.
The pairing of Rooney and Welbeck would surely present Sir Alex Ferguson with a decent platform to take, as will be expected by the United faithful, all three points.
After his side somehow came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he probably should have started Javier Hernandez in attack alongside Wayne Rooney.
Hailing the Mexican striker’s movement and positional play, the manager praised him for changing the game and putting huge pressure on home defenders David Luiz and Gary Cahill, which eventually resulted in him heading the equaliser.
|'I SHOULD'VE CHOSEN CHICHARITO'|
|Sir Alex Ferguson after Manchester United's 3-3 draw against Chelsea: |
"To be honest with you I perhaps should have played Chicharito from the start as when he came on he had the Chelsea defence under pressure with his movement and positional play.
"Danny [Welbeck] was terrific and is going to be a top player but when Chicharito came on in the second half, it was a different game."
However, Hernandez is now showing signs he is returning to his energetic and prolific best and proved in the second half of last season that he can score consistently in the biggest games as well as compliment Rooney nicely.
While Danny Welbeck has had a strong campaign, Sir Alex should now revert back to his tried and trusted strike-force of last year’s title-winning team, as he admitted he should have done against the Blues last weekend.
The combination of the movement of Hernandez and Rooney’s creativity is likely to cause the likes of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel – stoppers not renowned for impressive mobility - big problems on the day.
Chicharito scored at Anfield earlier in the season, as well as netting against Liverpool in the last campaign. In a vitally important game that may be decided by the finest of margins, United need to have one of the league’s top finishers on the pitch, rather than the bench.
Dimitar Berbatov has cast a glum figure on the Manchester United bench this season but the Bulgarian will have happy memories of playing against Liverpool.
|BRILLIANT BERBATOV BAGS HAT-TRICK|
|FROM OUR LIVE COMMENTARY|
|85'||GOAL!! BERBATOV COMPLETES HIS HAT-TRICK!! 3-2 TO UNITED!! Scholes plays the ball out wide to O'Shea on the right and continues his run into the area. O'Shea's right-footed cross escapes Macheda but picks out the head of Berbatov, who rises above Carragher to thump home a header into the bottom left-hand corner.|
|9.5||Did not simply maintain his outstanding early season but surpassed it. Three goals of differing but serious quality - two headers either side of a magnificently imaginative and impudent overhead kick.|
When Kenny Dalglish made an emotional return as Liverpool manager in January, Berbatov was the man who won the penalty - somewhat contentiously - that sent United into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The reasonable conclusion can be reached from those two games at Old Trafford last season that Liverpool defenders find it tough to combat Berbatov’s touch, technique and skill.
Berbatov also has the touch of class - more so than Welbeck or Chicharito - to score a goal out of nothing in tight games.
And, despite featuring in only ten league games for the Old Trafford club this season - including five appearances as a substitute - the Bulgarian has still managed to score seven goals this season, including six in three games against Fulham, Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers.
With Berbatov and Wayne Rooney providing creativity and goal threat centrally, United will be able to dominate possession and bring the best out of wingers Antonio Valencia and Nani, or the fit-again Ashley Young.
Starting Berbatov will also give Sir Alex Ferguson the chance of bringing Welbeck or Chicharito on in the second-half.
The Mexican, in particular, is razor sharp in front of goal and his pace and finishing ability could provide the knockout punch, as it did in securing a come from behind draw with Chelsea last on Sunday.