De Gea set to return as Man United bid to end mutiny talk

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Steven Griffiths
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London (AFP) - David de Gea is set to cap a remarkable return to favour at Manchester United by starting Saturday's clash against Liverpool as Louis van Gaal's spluttering side bid to banish talk of mutiny at Old Trafford.

Just 11 days after coming within minutes of joining Real Madrid, Spain goalkeeper De Gea on Friday signed a new four-year contract at United worth a reported £200,000 ($308,000) a week.

De Gea was left out of Van Gaal's squad for the first six matches of the season because the United manager claimed he wasn't in the right frame of mind to play.

But Van Gaal says the 24-year-old is now fully focused and hinted he would be back in the starting line-up in place of Sergio Romero this weekend.

"Will he play? I will have to judge the session and he knows that," Van Gaal said.

"It's logical that his head is now empty and he can concentrate and focus on the match.

"That is a big change from three or four weeks before, so I hope I can see that and give him his first start."

De Gea's return from exile is a welcome boost for United at the end of a week in which Van Gaal admitted Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick approached him earlier this season because they had concerns about dressing room morale.

Reports suggested some United players were unhappy with aspects of Van Gaal's management, principally the style of the team's play and the number of team meetings held by the Dutchman.

But while van Gaal conceded Rooney and Carrick aired their worries with him, he attempted to put a positive spin on the situation.

"Rooney and Michael Carrick came to me and said: 'The dressing room is flat.'," Van Gaal added.

"But I think I have a superb relationship with my players. It is very positive that they are coming to you and that they trust you."

United, 2-1 losers at Swansea, and Liverpool, shocked 3-0 at home by West Ham, were beaten for the first time this season in their last matches before the international break, raising doubts about their ability to fight for the title.

- Confidence -

Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva, likely to start against United with Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen struggling with injuries, admits the outcome of Saturday's match will have a significant impact on how both clubs fare this season.

"The two teams arrive in a similar situation with a lot of new players, a lot of new signings," Lucas said.

"It's probably one of the biggest games of the season. I think if you get a good result there it can give you a lot of belief and confidence going forward.

"It's a good opportunity for us to put the result against West Ham behind us and start again."

Leaders Manchester City will face a stern examination of the top tier's last remaining 100 percent record when they travel to in-form Crystal Palace.

Manuel Pellegrini's side have won all four of their matches in swaggering style, raising hopes they can wrest the title away from Chelsea.

But the Eagles won't be pushovers after climbing to second place on the back of three victories, including a stunning 2-1 win at Chelsea in their last match.

"It's an unusual position for us and something we probably can't sustain for a long period, but in the short term we can enjoy it. We deserve to be there after four games," Palace manager Alan Pardew said.

Champions Chelsea are marooned in mid-table after a miserable start and can ill-afford a third defeat of the season when they take on Everton.

The main focus of attention at Goodison Park will be Everton defender John Stones, who failed in his attempt to force through a move to Chelsea after his club rejected his transfer request and snubbed the Blues' offer of around £30 million ($46 million, 40 million euros) for the England international.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez said: "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."

Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated):


Arsenal v Stoke, Crystal Palace v Manchester City, Everton v Chelsea (1145 GMT), Manchester United v Liverpool (1630 GMT), Norwich v Bournemouth, Watford v Swansea, West Brom v Southampton


Leicester v Aston Villa (1500 GMT), Sunderland v Tottenham (1230 GMT)


West Ham v Newcastle (1900 GMT)