In a fixture where he put in one of the great goalkeeping performances of last season, David de Gea could return to the Manchester United lineup on Saturday. De Gea’s brilliance helped United to a flattering 3-0 win over Liverpool at Old Trafford last December, but he has been conspicuous by his absence from the team’s goal this campaign. Yet, as the two most successful clubs in English history prepare for the latest edition of their rivalry, speculation over the Spaniard’s future has at long last been put on the backburner.
Just two weeks after his transfer to Real Madrid fell through at the last moment, the 24-year-old has signed a new long-term contract at Old Trafford. Whether that proves to be just a means for United to secure a hefty transfer fee when he does leave for Real Madrid, or the player has genuinely had a change of heart over his future, manager Louis van Gaal revealed that De Gea could immediately return against Liverpool.
“You have to wait and see [if he plays] -- you never know,” he said on Friday. “I have to judge the training session.
“I am very happy that David de Gea stays, because I believe that he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He was my best player last year. It’s a happy end.
“It is confirmation of what I am always saying, that transfers are a process. Everything can happen. I had hope always until the end, despite all the media writing that he was going to Real Madrid. I didn't want to sell him and we didn't sell him and now he is here.”
There will surely be a considerable temptation for Van Gaal to throw De Gea into the starting lineup on Saturday given the struggles endured last time out by the man who has replaced him in goal through the early weeks of the season. Sergio Romero, although not the only player culpable, was badly at fault as Bafetimbi Gomis squeezed a low shot by him to hand Swansea a 2-1 win at the Liberty Stadium two weeks ago.
That was Manchester United’s first defeat of the season, but it leaves Van Gaal craving an immediate response, especially after reports of his squad beginning to question some of his methods. But the need for a positive result is just as great, if not more so, for hos Liverpool counterpart. Despite matching United’s solid start to the season with seven points from three games, a calamitous 3-0 home defeat to West Ham has swiftly returned all the question marks over Rodgers that swirled in a disappointing last season. And the Liverpool manager admits the two-week layoff only makes the encounter all the more significant.
“It’s winning the next game, irrespective of where it is,” Rodgers said, reports Liverpool’s official website. “Of course it’s a big game, but once you lose a game and you’ve had two weeks to sit on it, winning the next game is important -- no matter where that’s at.
“For us it’s about ensuring that our performance level is at the level we would want it to be and ensuring that we set our own standards. We fell below that in the result against West Ham, so we’re looking to recreate that standard again and we look forward to it.”
Liverpool’s task will be made tougher by the absence of Brazilian creator Philippe Coutinho, after he picked up a red card against West Ham. And the Merseysiders will continue to be without Daniel Sturridge. There was some expectation that the England forward would be fit to make a long-awaited return following the international break, but, while back in training, Rodgers refused to set a date for his return.
Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. EDT
TV channel: NBC
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra