After the failed move to Real Madrid, goalkeeper David De Gea is finally set to make his first appearance of the season for Manchester United on Saturday against old rival Liverpool.
Held back by United manager Louis van Gaal because of the turmoil surrounding his future, Friday’s announcement by the club that De Gea had signed a four-year contract should clear the 24-year-old Spain international to finally play.
The deal, which ties him to the club until 2019, should also help United move on from some unwanted speculation about Van Gaal’s training regime and a report that players had complained about his approach.
The Dutchman said Friday that captain Wayne Rooney and the team’s vice captain had raised some concerns – but Van Gaal maintained that he had ”a superb relationship” with his players.
”Rooney and Michael Carrick came to me and said: `The dressing room is flat.”’
Van Gaal added: ”In my career as a manager, I didn’t have so many who come to say something about the atmosphere in the dressing room or the way we train, or something like that…But it is very positive that they are coming to you and that they trust you.”
Between them, United and Liverpool have dominated English football for decades and their encounters have produced plenty of passion, controversy and red cards.
From the eight-match ban handed out in 2011 to Luis Suarez for his racial abuse of United defender Patrice Evra to the red card shown to Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard only 38 seconds after coming on as a substitute last March, it’s a game that easily gets out of hand.
However passionate it may be, though, it’s now a match with more history than significance for the title.
Superseded by Manchester City and Chelsea at the top, the more realistic objectives for United and Liverpool are a place in next season’s Champions League.
Here are some things to know about the weekend’s games in the Premier League:
The speculation swirling around Old Trafford about De Gea’s future should finally end – at least for this season – after he signed a new contract.
De Gea is now clear to replace Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero for Saturday’s home game against Liverpool.
Arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, De Gea is bound to lift a side that has not made a convincing start to the season.
At the other end of the field, United striker Wayne Rooney will be playing his first game since becoming England’s all-time leading scorer, having reached the 50-goal mark in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Switzerland in a European Championship qualifier.
Like United, Liverpool has had a mixed start to the season – losing 3-0 at home to West Ham in its last outing – and could do with striker Daniel Sturridge’s long-awaited return from injury.
That’s unlikely to happen on Saturday, despite reports that he is back in training after a hip operation in May.
Chelsea gets the weekend action underway when the champions kick off the early match against Everton at Goodison Park.
Everton defender John Stones can expect to come under close scrutiny after Chelsea made three unsuccessful bids for him last month, prompting the 21-year-old England international to hand in a transfer request.
For Everton manager Roberto Martinez, though, that’s already history.
”John has gone from strength to strength in a period of high pressure and has used it in the right way, taking the support of everyone at the club and has performed with incredible maturity and composure,” Martinez said. ”Any story or any backlash still from the transfer window I am not going to entertain.”
Chelsea will be without goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after he picked up a knee injury in training.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said Courtois will be out for ”quite a long time” and that Asmir Begovic would take over between the posts.
HEADED FOR LONDON
Manchester City, the only team to have won all four games this season, will be expecting to make it five at Crystal Palace.
City is likely to be without England midfielder Fabian Delph after he limped out of the win against Switzerland with a suspected hamstring problem.
However, City manager Manuel Pellegrini could well Belgium midfielder Kevin de Bruyne his debut.
The club’s record signing – reported to have cost City more than 50 million pounds ($77 million) – could get the nod after playmaker David Silva picked up an ankle injury.
”He needs maybe to be included in the movements of our squad for more time, but if we need him at this moment he can play without problems,” Pellegrini said of De Bruyne.
Silva is unlikely to be risked with a Champions League opener on Tuesday at home to Juventus.