Dropped England captain Wayne Rooney will receive “the respect he deserves” back at Manchester United, according to Jose Mourinho.
The 30-year-old striker returned to club duty earlier this week following an international break in which he was booed by fans at Wembley three days before interim England manager Gareth Southgate left the country’s all-time record scorer out of his XI in Slovenia.
Mourinho is set to do likewise against Liverpool tonight, but the United manager insists Rooney can rely on the backing of the Old Trafford faithful after certain sections of the England support turned on him against Malta.
“He was not booed by Man United fans,” Mourinho said.
“To be honest, the last match when he went to the warm-up I was feeling Old Trafford was behind him and immediately supporting him during the warm-up before he came on against Stoke.
“I think at Man United he feels at home, at Man United he feels the respect he deserves. Not at Anfield, obviously, but he knows that here he is respected.”
Such receptions will not be forthcoming at Anfield, where Rooney scored the winner in the league last year, given the United skipper’s ties with the blue half of Merseyside.
Mourinho is also assured of a frosty welcome after the rivalry his old club Chelsea shared with Liverpool during his time in west London, and any ill feeling towards the Portuguese will not have dissipated since he took up his new post across the M62.
He has claimed victories in each of his previous two trips to Liverpool in the league, with a success during Chelsea’s most recent title-winning campaign following the victory at the back end of the previous term when the Reds were on the cusp of a first Premier League crown.
The latter win, which came sandwiched between two Champions League semi-final ties with Atletico Madrid in 2014, was celebrated with great delight by Mourinho and he admits these types of rivalry games are the ones he relishes tackling.
“For me, to play Liverpool is to play against a big club,” he added. “In Madrid I wanted to play against Barcelona, against Atletico, against Valencia. In Inter I wanted to play against Milan, against Juventus, against Roma. In Chelsea I wanted to play against Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal, all the big clubs in the country.
“Now in Man United it’s the same. I love to play against the big opponents and Liverpool is a big opponent.”
Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius heads into the biggest match of his career confident in his position as Jurgen Klopp’s new first choice.
The German has taken over from long-time No 1 Simon Mignolet for the last three games but the visit of Manchester United represents the former Mainz player’s biggest challenge to date.
Despite the often precarious nature of being a goalkeeper, when one mistake can lose you your place, the 23-year-old insists there is no ill-will between him and Mignolet, who in three unchallenged years in the team failed to properly establish himself beyond doubt.
“It’s not about being best friends but we get on well,” Karius said. “On the pitch we know we are rivals but that doesn’t mean you wish anything bad on the other.”
Karius has played against Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in his homeland but with Mainz’s standing as a relatively small club in Germany the Premier League clash of England’s two most successful clubs is on another level entirely. When asked if it would be the most significant outing of his career he said: “Probably. With all the history of both clubs, the rivalry, it’s a very big match.
“Manchester United has a good, strong team but we have a great team and we play at home. We have respect for them but we’re not scared of them and we know we want to win the game.”