x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Rooney's knockout vow

Wayne Rooney is confident that Manchester United can deal a decisive blow to Liverpool's Premier League title chances when the sides meet at Old Trafford.

Wayne Rooney is confident that Manchester United can deal a decisive blow to Liverpool's Premier League title chances when the sides meet at Old Trafford this afternoon. Liverpool overshadowed their neighbours in midweek as Rafa Benitez's men turned in a sparkling display to defeat Real Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday night before United laboured to a 2-0 win over Inter a day later.

But as the focus returned to domestic matters, Rooney hinted that the English, European and world champions were ready to reveal their supremacy. "We're in pole position and know if we can beat Liverpool then that'll more or less end their chances of winning the league," the striker said. "They know, in coming to Old Trafford, it's going to be a difficult game for them. They also know they need the three points and I'm sure they'll be up for it - we certainly will be."

Rio Ferdinand, who has formed the best central defensive partnership in the world alongside Nemanja Vidic this season, added that United were focusing on their own prospects before the clash. Ferdinand said: "Could the game end their title chances? Possibly, but we still have games after that to win. It's the same at this stage of the season all the time. "People say 'If you win this game, you win the league', but it just continues until it's mathematically over and one team win it, and hopefully that will be us.

"If we win, it will obviously make it hard for them but I couldn't care what happens to Liverpool as long as we beat them. If we do that and that leads to people thinking they're out of it, then so be it." United have a major advantage in the title race as they're seven points clear with a game in hand over nearest challengers Chelsea and Liverpool. Benitez - who is seeking his 100th English league victory - knows United need to suffer a dramatic loss of form if the league title is to return to Anfield for the first time in 19 years.

After their win over Real Madrid Liverpool players say they could cause an upset at Old Trafford. "If we play like we did against Real Madrid it will be difficult for any team to beat us," said Javier Mascherano, who was sent off in Liverpool's 3-0 defeat in the corresponding fixture last season. "It was a fantastic performance and now we'll see what happens at Old Trafford. We want to win there."

Winger Ryan Babel added: "There is a new belief that we can beat United now. Winning any game is possible and it gives us a buzz to go to Old Trafford after beating Real Madrid." Reports say that Benitez will soon sign a new contract that will keep him at Anfield for the next five years. jeastham@thenational.ae