LONDON, United Kingdom, Oct 14 – Jose Mourinho faces one of the biggest decisions of his Manchester United reign as he weighs up whether to recall Wayne Rooney for the Premier League clash with bitter rivals Liverpool.
Rooney has endured a miserable few weeks after being dropped by United and England.
The 30-year-old’s troubles have led to a debate about whether he should be used in midfield instead of his long-time role as a striker, while some critics claim he is no longer worthy of his place with club or country.
After crushing Leicester in their first match without Rooney, United were less impressive in a draw against lowly Stoke and Mourinho might be tempted to bring him back at Anfield on Monday.
Given Rooney’s experience and track record in big games — he scored the winner at Liverpool last season — if Mourinho does leave him out for such a significant fixture it will cement the striker’s diminished status in the Old Trafford pecking order.
Dwight Yorke, a Champions League and Premier League winner during his time with United, has no doubts Rooney is still a force to be reckoned with.
“People in football have such bloody short memories. He just has to get his confidence back and play in the manner we’re used to seeing, banging in goals. Then everyone will be singing his praises again,” Yorke said.
After losing their last four league meetings with United, Liverpool have a chance to make a statement about their title credentials.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have won four successive matches to climb to fourth place, but the German isn’t satisfied.
“Even when you are good, you need to get better because the teams around you all get better. To stay in the race, development is everything,” Klopp said.
Leaders Manchester City will bid to bounce back from the first defeat of Pep Guardiola’s reign when they host Everton.
Guardiola was unbeaten in his first 11 matches after arriving from Bayern Munich, but the Spaniard’s dream start was shattered by City’s 2-0 defeat at Tottenham and Brazil midfielder Fernando admits his team must recover their momentum quickly.
“We need to learn from that defeat and return to winning ways again, so it’s vital we get back to playing the way we have been,” Fernando said.
“We’re all keen to put that game behind us because we were a long way from our best.”
Tottenham hold the top flight’s last unbeaten record as they travel to West Bromwich Albion.
Mauricio Pochettino’s second-placed team are only one point behind City thanks to four consecutive victories.
– Criticism –
But Tottenham’s fine run could be threatened by a familiar face in Nacer Chadli, who has already scored three times since leaving White Hart Lane to join Albion.
“Am I looking forward to the reunion? Not really! He is going to be a very tough opponent,” Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld said.
Swansea, without a win since the opening day of the season, travel to Arsenal for their first match under new manager Bob Bradley.
Bradley’s appointment as replacement for the sacked Francesco Guidolin drew criticism in some quarters and the former USA and Egypt coach could do without a drubbing at in-form Arsenal, who have climbed to third place after five successive wins.
Arsenal’s title bid was shattered by a 2-1 defeat against Swansea last season and Gunners boss Arsene Wenger wants his squad to show how much they have improved.
“We had a very negative experience with Swansea, who killed our opportunity to win the Premier League,” he said.
“Now we have a good opportunity to show we can deal with fixtures where we are favourites.”
Leicester defender Luis Hernandez says the champions are still a team to fear despite a spluttering start to their title defence.
With only two wins from their seven league matches, Claudio Ranieri’s side appear to be suffering a prolonged hangover from their fairytale triumph ahead of Saturday’s visit to Chelsea.
But Hernandez said: “Our strength is the group but on the counter-attack, we are lethal.
“We have not started as we would have liked, but we just need two or three good results to grow in confidence.”
Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated)
Arsenal v Swansea, Bournemouth v Hull, Chelsea v Leicester (1130 GMT), Crystal Palace v West Ham (1630 GMT), Manchester City v Everton, Stoke v Sunderland, West Brom v Tottenham
Middlesbrough v Watford (1230 GMT), Southampton v Burnley (1500 GMT)
Liverpool v Manchester United (1900 GMT)