Liverpool setback serves as warning for Man United

Liverpool's early setback in the Premier League title race has shown Manchester United the need to maintain its winning start to the new campaign.

updated: August 18, 2009 16:03 IST
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Liverpool's early setback in the Premier League title race has shown Manchester United the need to maintain its winning start to the new campaign.

The Reds Devils are prone to stuttering starts themselves, but their quest for a record fourth straight Premier League title began with a 1-0 victory over Birmingham on Sunday, when Liverpool lost 2-1 at Tottenham.

"You don't want to be playing catch-up, even after only one game," Man United defender John O'Shea said. "Other teams are looking stronger now, so it's important we stamp our authority early on in the season.

"We've opened the last two league seasons with draws, so we're happy to have picked up three points against Birmingham. Now we move on with a tough game at Burnley."

O'Shea is likely to continue filling in at center back on Wednesday with Rio Ferdinand out with a thigh injury for at least two more weeks.

"We've had a hard time with injuries in our defense over the last two seasons but we've got capable people to fill in," manager Alex Ferguson said. "Look at John O'Shea, what a role he does for this club _ he plays everywhere and without any complaints."

Wednesday's match will be United's first meeting between the sides in the top flight since 1976, although Burnley defender Richard Eckersley has inside knowledge of the defending champions.

The 20-year-0ld Eckersley was an academy graduate at Old Trafford before leaving in July to ensure he played regularly.

"United's a dream club and nobody really wants to leave, but I wanted the chance to play first-team football," Eckersley said. "Just being around the first-team players at United every day and training with them was really special. I learnt a lot, and not just how to train.

"You also learn about how to go about your daily life and how to conduct yourself off the pitch. Hopefully, I can apply that knowledge here."

Cameroon defender Andre Bikey could make his Burnley debut after joining on a three-year contract Tuesday from Reading.

With the league newcomers' defense depleted by injuries to captain Steven Caldwell and Michael Duff, Burnley lost 2-0 on the opening weekend against Stoke.

Liverpool, which hosts Stoke on Wednesday, also had a miserable start to the season at Tottenham.

"It was a surprise because we didn't expect to start the season with a defeat," defender Andrea Dossena said. "But nothing has changed in terms of our aims for the season. It's the middle of August and there is plenty of time for us to come back from this setback."

The Reds need Fernando Torres to discover his goal-scoring touch at Anfield after lacking a cutting edge on Sunday, but the Spain striker sees Stoke are a difficult proposition after Liverpool was twice held to draws last season.

"We couldn't win against them, so we are waiting for a very defensive team," Torres said. "They will try to score from set-pieces or from a long ball, but we have to be offensive and go from the first minute until the end to try to score. And if we can score in the first minute, I am sure we can win.

"The best thing when you lose is having a game three days later because we have the chance to forget about Tottenham. It is disappointing when you cannot win, but I think we have to improve, we have to be positive. We can get three points and we are on our way."

Also on Wednesday, Birmingham hosts Portsmouth and Tottenham travels to Hull.