By Simon Stone
Published: 14 December 2007
Manchester United will enter the most intense cauldron they will experience all season on Sunday with the striker Louis Saha saying the trip to Liverpool will be a perfect time for his team-mates to flex their title muscles.
The Merseysiders may not have won the championship for approaching two decades but that run has done nothing to diminish the rivalry between the two. If anything, it has intensified, even though United hardly challenged Liverpool during their own dominance of the game and Sir Alex Ferguson's men have tended to view Arsenal and latterly Chelsea as their major rivals.
But Saha said: "Without doubt, it is the most intense atmosphere for a Manchester United player. I have played there a few times now but the win we had there last season was amazing. That is one of the greatest feelings I have ever had as a footballer."
With Chelsea visiting Arsenal immediately after the Liverpool-United game, it promises to be an important day in the battle for domestic supremacy. Liverpool may have put four past Marseilles on Tuesday but their surprise defeat at Reading last Saturday saw them slip seven points behind leaders Arsenal and six adrift of United, though they do have a game in hand on both.
However, Saha says a win for United this weekend, while not quite having the same galvanising effect as John O'Shea's late strike managed last term, could prove significant.
"My main memory of last season is that the win at Liverpool kick-started us towards the title," he said. "It proved we were strong enough. We are going there much earlier in the season this time and there is still a long road ahead. But it does give us a chance to show exactly how good we are."
After coming through only his second full 90 minutes of the season in Rome on Wednesday night, Saha can feel his fitness beginning to return.
Sir Alex has already stressed total faith in the Frenchman to recover from the long-standing knee problems. In acknowledging that Saha's pace, power and strength make the 29-year-old unique in the present United squad, Sir Alex has vowed to stick with the former Paris St-Germain player despite rumours he will eventually be sold. Saha admits the manager's comments give him added belief. However, he insists the greatest pressure to perform comes from within.
"What the manager said is very good for my confidence," he said.