Manchester United will hit the Premier League summit – at least for a few hours – should Sir Alex Ferguson’s side beat Everton at Goodison Park Saturday lunchtime. With Chelsea due to play Wolverhampton Wanderers later in the day, United will reach top spot for the first time this year with victory over David Moyes side in what Ferguson dubs a “massive” game.
Fresh from the confidence boosting victory in Milan on Tuesday, Ferguson’s men travel to Liverpool with an excellent recent record against the city’s blue half. But with Everton gaining a Louis Saha inspired win over Chelsea last weekend, there is no reason to expect anything other than a thorough test.
“We have a good record there (at Goodison),” said Ferguson.
“Maybe the atmosphere does help us because it is a real football stadium. Goodison Park is an old ground but it has got the football tradition still attached to it.
“The crowd are always very noisy and they will make that noise felt tomorrow. But we have experienced that many times before.
“It is a massive game for us, we recognise that. Beating Chelsea shows Everton’s potential, so if we could get one, a positive result would be very important.”
With that aim in mind, United welcome back Nemanja Vidic to the matchday squad. It’s a timely return with Rio Ferdinand suspended for the short trip to Merseyside. The Serbian, who pulled out of United’s trip to Milan this week, is fit to play according to manager Ferguson.
Winger Nani is also suspended after the Portuguese winger’s red card at Aston Villa last week, although Antonio Valencia’s bright performance in Milan has earned the Ecuadorian a start this weekend.
The manager is also likely to freshen the side up in midfield, with Anderson’s reportedly excellent in the reserves 2-0 victory over Everton in midweek suggesting a recall is possible for the out-of-favour Brazilian.
However, all eyes will remain on former-Evertonian Wayne Rooney, whose 24th and 25th strikes of an outstanding season inspired United to Champions League victory in Italy.
“Over the last month or so his game has just taken off,” Ferguson added.
“Confidence has something to do with it of course but he has been in absolutely incredible form over the last few weeks.
“Before, we said that his goalscoring tended to come in bursts. Now he is far more consistent and goalscoring is the area you always want to be judged as a striker.
“It is the area of biggest improvement and with him doing that you have to put him in the same bracket as all the best players. The evidence is there.”
The striker will receive a warm reception from the Everton fans who once idolised the local-born player. Six years as a United play has done little to diminish the hate felt on Merseyside for Rooney. It likely to do little more than motivate Europe’s leading goalscorer, according to Ferguson
“He always gets a rough ride there although he is probably used to that now,’ added the Scot.
“There is a special motivation for Wayne to do well against Everton but we couldn’t have him in better form really and it doesn’t matter where we are going.
“He has been the main player. Without a doubt he has been the star for the last few weeks. He is in such good form we are going there in great confidence.”
And with the Premier League title in sight the timing couldn’t be better.