Red hot rivals

Image: Carragher & Rooney: key Battle

Ray Wilkins and Gary McAllister tell us about the massive rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United.

Grand Slam Sunday
Liverpool v Manchester Utd
1pm, Sunday, Sky Sports 1

Grand Slam Sunday kicks off with one of the biggest games of any season as Manchester United travel to Anfield to face their fierce rivals Liverpool Ray Wilkins played in this fixture on numerous occasions in a Manchester United shirt, while Gary McAllister experienced the rivalry during his time at Liverpool, so both are well equipped to tell us what we should be looking out for on Sunday. And they joined us to discuss where the game will be won and lost and what it means for both clubs in terms of this season's title race.

How big is the United v Liverpool rivalry?

Gary McAllister: Of all the clashes between the big four, this is the one with the most hostility. I thought Leeds v Manchester United was ugly at times, but there is no love lost between these two either. Ray Wilkins: Absolutely, this one is massive. It is bigger than the Manchester derby by a mile. These are two genuinely big football clubs and they are great games to play in.

Where will it be won and lost?

RW: The main contests will be Vidic and Ferdinand against Torres and Crouch, while at the other end it's Carragher and Hyppia against Rooney and Tevez. I think that's where the game will be won and lost. GM: I would agree with that. It's the first time Torres has played in this game so a lot will depend on how he plays. But if you want to compete at the top of the league you have got to beat your nearest rivals.

Is victory vital for under-pressure Rafael Benitez?

GM: Anfield has never been a place for rumours, so I've been surprised by what has been coming out of there about a dressing room split. But the fans have shown him great support and the response from the players has been good. There are a lot of expectations on him and the job he has is to win games and to win titles. But I look at the side and I see power and guile and with the likes of Torres and Gerrard, they can be a force in the title race. It's a special club, but they haven't won the league for 18 years and the expectations are higher than that. The club is better than that.

Could Benitez's rotation policy cost them this season?

RW: That is what Rafa has always done. He did it at Valencia and they did alright. Every manager will have their own plans and will bring players off the bench, that's their prerogative. But from a player's perspective you would like to think that if you play well one week then you would play the week after. Some of the guys play to a high standard and get left out. If you are playing consistently well then you build momentum and get a wining mentality, so for me you should only be left out if you are not playing well. But Benitez is not going to change the way he does things now. GM: They dropped points against Brimingham and Pompey when Rafa changed the side, but when they've got their strongest XI on the park then they look the part. I suppose rotation is a generational thing. Top players have always had to play loads of football, but squads are bigger now and players are expensive so managers want to use them all. I watch them regularly and I can't pick what team Rafa will put out at the weekend. If you are under pressure you need to know the people around you on the pitch and they way they play. Liverpool can't create those combinations over the pitch. I'd say Liverpool's players will all be wanting to play after their win on Tuesday and then they will want to play again against Chelsea in the Carling Cup next week.

What have you made of Manchester United so far this season?

RW: They have kept a lot of clean sheets this season and that hasn't happened for a long time. They are going to defend for long periods on Sunday, but they have four players on the pitch in Ronaldo, Tevez, Giggs and Rooney who can rip any team to pieces. Psychologically, Arsenal dropping five points in a week is a big boost. The players will be thinking Arsenal are in their sights and they will fancy their chances.

What is your prediction for the Grand Slam Sunday clash?

GM: Liverpool have not particularly worried United in this fixture over the last few years, but I think they are going to win this time. I'm predicting 2-1 to Liverpool. RW: Liverpool will be buoyant after coming back from the dead to qualify for the next round of the Champions League. But with United's record at Anfield I fancy them. I think Man United will nick it and there will be a draw at the Emirates, so United will be top of the league on Sunday night.

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