Prize fighters square up
The English bull versus the Spanish matador. That's the headline duel at Old Trafford on Sunday when United face Liverpool. The Reds' Wayne Rooney epitomises the powerful and dangerous qualities of the bull. The Anfielders' Madrid-born hitman Fernando Torres possesses the cunning of the matador. Title-chasers United will be hoping there will be no blood spilled where their hitman is concerned. They'll also be hoping fourth-place hunting Liverpool will return to Merseyside without a kill for Torres, the man who has haunted the Reds and Nemanja Vidic, in particular, in the last three meetings. Rooney is the Premier League's in-form revelation with 32-goals posted in a super-charged campaign. Torres, who will be 26 on Saturday, has been dogged by injuries this term and Rafa Benitez's side have struggled as a result. The Spaniard has still managed a credible total of 15 goals from his 26 appearances. Sunday's head-to-head between the pair could also be a precursor to South Africa, with both hitmen expected to star at the World Cup this summer. Former United defender Gary Pallister admires the qualities of both but says Rooney is number one. "If there is a better striker in the world right now then I don't know where he is!" he told M.E.N. Sport. "If he's not the number one then I have missed someone and they must be sensational. He is the best in the world at the moment. "Wayne has been unbelievable this season. It is great to see the maturity. Everything you expected he would become he has delivered. It has all come to fruition. "He has the workrate, the power, the energy and the variety of goals. Whichever way you look at him, there are no weaknesses. Success "There were two areas where you could mark Rooney down prior to this season and that was the fact he didn't score many headers and secondly he tended to go wandering off looking for the ball. "But it is wonderful to hear that such a talented player has been doing his homework on his heading and staying behind in training to perfect it. "That is a great example to any footballer. He knew there was an area he could improve and he has gone out and done it. It has paid off handsomely. "Ten headed goals have been pivotal to his improvement and United's success. "You think of the power, the height and stature of Didier Drogba at Chelsea who is supposed to be dominant in their air and he has only scored six headers this season." Pallister added: "It is no secret that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to utilise Wayne in other areas because he was so willing and so full of energy. "But when you look at what Wayne is doing now he's getting into the area more you think it was a waste using him any other way. "He has been let off the leash now and is operating in an area where he is a threat. Defenders must have been grateful in the past for the respite when Rooney went looking for the ball elsewhere, they don't get breathers now." United were among Torres' admirers when the boyhood Atletico Madrid fan finally decided he had to leave La Liga to progress in 2007. "Rooney and Torres together at United that would have been the most dangerous strike partnership you could think of," said Pallister. "It really would have been a potent mix. I used to watch Torres when he was with Atletico and with Spain and despite his lean look you could tell he would relish the challenge of the Premier League style of football. He was made for the English game. "It suits him. He likes to put himself about. Nobody is going to bully him. He's robust, quick, mobile and has an eye for goal. "Like Rooney he is everything you would look for in a front man. "He's had a stop-start season with Liverpool and a frustrating one in terms of challenging for the trophies so you can imagine he will be champing at the bit come the World Cup. Wonderful "Having won Euro 2008 Spain are now favourites in South Africa and Torres is one of the major reasons why. He is a wonderful player and Spain are blessed with some fantastic players who'll create the opportunities for him. "They are the team to beat and he will be a contender for the World Cup Golden Boot as top scorer. Hopefully Rooney will have some say in that as well!" While Rooney is a cert to face Liverpool, Owen Hargreaves could make his long-awaited comeback on Thursday for the reserves at Altrincham, where they will meet Burnley. The midfielder was due to have a run-out last week but that failed to come to fruition as the club said the game did not fit in with his training schedule. Hargreaves has been sidelined since September 2008 following surgery on a knee injury and questions had been raised as to whether he would ever play again.
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