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Rooney ready for 'hated' Liverpool

MANCHESTER United striker Wayne Rooney's comments that he "hated" title rival Liverpool has been removed from the Premier League club's Website ahead of today's clash between the two sides.

"I'm very excited about the game because I grew up as an Everton fan hating Liverpool -- and that hasn't changed," England striker Rooney told the club Website on Thursday.

The article was later cut to say: "I'm very excited about the game because I grew up as an Everton fan."

"The comments were removed. We (the club) understand what he was trying to say but we did not want the media to sensationalize it," a Manchester United spokesperson said.

Rooney, who began his career with Liverpool's archrival Everton, moved to United in August 2004, a club which also shares a close rivalry with the Anfield side.

United heads into the Old Trafford meeting seven points ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool, with a game in hand on both sides and only 11 league matches left to play.

Defeat for Liverpool will almost certainly end its title hopes.

"We're in pole position in the title race and we know if we can beat Liverpool on Saturday then that'll more or less end their chances of winning the league," Rooney told MUTV. Liverpool refused to comment on Rooney's remarks.

Liverpool prepared for one of the most eagerly awaited fixtures of the season with an overpowering display against Real Madrid in the Champions League at Anfield on Tuesday, but its spluttering domestic form and an over-reliance on striker Fernando Torres and midfielder Steven Gerrard means United starts as the clear favorite.

United's prosaic progress to the quarterfinals of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Inter Milan on Wednesday may work against Liverpool.

Manager Alex Ferguson was incensed by the way senior players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes squandered possession against the Italians, and Liverpool can expect a reaction at Old Trafford.

"It was really reckless football and it allowed Inter Milan to get a grip of the game," Ferguson said. "From the middle of the first half to the end of the first half they (Inter) were the better team."

United defender Rio Ferdinand said he had been impressed by Liverpool's win over Madrid and feels that even if United wins today it would be premature to write off the team's challenge.

"They've had a good week, getting a great result against Real Madrid," Ferdinand said. "People say, 'If you win this game, you win the league,' but it just continues until it's mathematically over and one team wins it, and hopefully that will be us.

"If we win, it will obviously make it hard for them but I couldn't care what happens to Liverpool as long as we beat them.

"If we do that and that leads to people thinking they're out of it, then so be it."

Chelsea, second ahead of Liverpool on goal difference, hosts Manchester City tomorrow, looking for a fourth consecutive league win under temporary manager Guus Hiddink.

Aston Villa faces Tottenham tomorrow and will be looking to halt a slump in form that threatens its hold on fourth place -- and with it the final Champions League qualification spot.

Villa has gone six games in all competitions without a win.

Fifth-place Arsenal is three points behind Villa and hosts Blackburn tonight.


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