Watch Out for Carroll

Wayne Rooney has urged Manchester United to pay special attention to Andy Carroll tonight.

Carroll is bound to get a frosty reception from the Old Trafford faithful when West Ham travel north today. As a Liverpool player with an enormous price tag, it is hard to imagine the United fans will not single him out.

England’s Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll during Euro 2012. Pics/Getty Images

However, after working alongside the 23-year-old at close quarters during Euro 2012, Rooney knows the reality of Carroll’s performances is nowhere near the perception many have of him.

The burly forward will travel north with confidence high following his first goal of the season at Tottenham on Sunday. And Rooney has warned his United teammates to be on their guard.

“Andy Carroll is a handful,” said the striker. “I am sure if you ask any defender, they find it difficult to play against someone like that who is good in the air and on the floor.

“He is physical and makes it hard for opponents. That type of player doesn’t always get all the goals but they can cause trouble up front and create problems. “I am sure that is what Sam Allardyce wants him to do.” Rather like Rooney, Carroll is like a lightning conductor for attention.

Trouble here
It seems he cannot have a quiet game, when he blends into the background. He has to either be sensational or rubbish, with the brutal assessment often falling on the latter. Rooney knows from personal experience such situations are never quite so black and white.

However, he accepts they come with the territory. “It is something you get used to,” he said. “In the Premier League, you are there to be judged, whether that is good or bad. You just have to deal with it.”

Carroll is an obvious threat given United's Achilles heel of conceding the first goal. It has happened on an incredible 13 occasions this season, including in their last five games.

Indeed, United have somehow managed to clamber to the top of the Premier League despite managing just a single clean sheet, against Wigan at Old Trafford in September.

“Clean sheets are the foundation we try and achieve because we have plenty of players who can score goals and win games,” he said.

With Paul Scholes suspended, Sir Alex Ferguson has already confirmed Anderson will start for only the second time in the Premier League this season. It is also possible either Phil Jones or Chris Smalling will replace Rafael at right-back given the sheer number of games the young Brazilian has been involved in this season.

Barca rests Messi for domestic cup tie 
Barcelona say they have decided to rest Lionel Messi and six other top players for today’s domestic cup match against third division Alaves. Coach Tito Vilanova decided not to play Messi, goalie Victor Valdes, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, and Jordi Alba, for the return match at Camp Nou. Barcelona won 3-0 away in the first match. — AFP

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