Buoyed by Luis Suarez’s return, Liverpool will visit Manchester United in the League Cup today eager to inflict more misery on a team reeling from a brutal derby defeat.
Sunday’s 4-1 loss at Manchester City completed United’s worst start to a season in nine years and prompted renewed scrutiny of new manager David Moyes’ methods.
Since succeeding former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, Moyes has seen his side beaten by Liverpool and City, and held to a 0-0 draw by Chelsea, leaving the defending champions five points off the pace in the Premier League.
Another loss to archrivals Liverpool would only add weight to the steadily creeping doubts about his aptitude for the job, but striker Wayne Rooney believes today’s game has arrived at the right time.
“We have all grown up, whether it is [in] Manchester, Liverpool or somewhere else, having local derbies,” Rooney told United’s in-house channel, MUTV. “It is not nice when you lose one. I have been there as a fan and now as a player. Thankfully, we have another massive game against Liverpool.”
“It is the ideal game for us. Any game against Liverpool, whether it is a friendly, Capital One Cup or Premier League, is massive,” he said. “We have to try and get the victory so we can put this defeat to the back of our minds.”
Rooney appears to have put an unsettled close season to the back of his mind — scoring four goals in his past three games — and Liverpool will hope that Suarez is able to draw a line beneath his own recent trials and tribulations.
The Uruguayan will be playing in his first official club game since April 21, having now completed a 10-game ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic last season.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers chose an unfortunate turn of phrase when he said the striker was “champing at the bit,” but Suarez’s return falls at a timely juncture after Saturday’s surprise 1-0 loss at home to Southampton.
Suarez tried to force through a move to Arsenal during the close season, even accusing Liverpool of breaking promises made to him, but Rodgers is confident that he will be forgiven by the club’s fans.
Referencing Liverpool’s backing of Suarez after he was banned for racially abusing United leftback Patrice Evra in 2011, Rodgers said: “This club has given every single player here everything in the time I’ve been here and none more so than Luis.”
“He will show that and demonstrate that in his performances and that is what the players and people want to see. They want to see him with a red shirt on, fighting for the club,” he said. “The great thing about this football club is no matter what a player has done — or supposedly said — the supporters are 150 percent behind every player that pulls on that shirt and they back them to the hilt.”
“I am sure that is something we will see and aligned to that will be his commitment and that will be nothing more than I would expect,” Rodgers added. “I have no doubt, having been out, he will be even hungrier, but his commitment and fight for the cause will still be the same.”
Rodgers was to decide yesterday whether to hand Suarez a starting berth in the third-round tie at Old Trafford.
Both managers are expected to rotate their starting lineups, with Robin van Persie a candidate to start for the hosts despite missing the loss at City with a groin strain.
Elsewhere today, Arsenal are to visit West Bromwich Albion, fresh from a 3-1 defeat of Stoke City that sent Arsene Wenger’s side to the top of the Premier League table.
Holders Swansea City, who thrashed Bradford City in last season’s final, visit Birmingham City, while Newcastle United host Leeds United and Stoke travel to third-tier Tranmere Rovers.