The combination of Manchester United's financial figures being announced, with the onus on lost revenue from failing to progress from the Champions League group stages last season, just 24 hours before they start this season's campaign, should bring the importance of this match sharply into focus.
Last year Sir Alex Ferguson got it wrong, by underestimating the opposition and sending out weakened teams. So what will his line-up look like tonight?
Here are five tactical and selection decisions he faces having to make...
Who should play in goal?
This is a divided issue right now for United, with Anders Lindegaard claiming earlier this week that he and David de Gea share the number one spot. The Dane has played the last two matches in goal, and has hardly put a foot wrong in either, and until he does it would be harsh to drop him. However ahead of the Wigan game we speculated that Ferguson would play one in each of their next two games, ahead of Anfield on Sunday, meaning De Gea could start tonight to show what he can do. However rotating their goalkeepers in the competition counted against them last season, and the manager may just stick with the number 13.
Who should play at left-back?
A lot was made of Alexander Buttner's superb performance at left-back against Wigan, where he showed Patrice Evra he finally has some competition for the position. So should Ferguson stick with the new boy, or throw Evra back in to see how he responds? It is being suggested that it is the latter, and the Frenchman will get a chance to redeem himself, but if he does this could really cloud the situation ahead of the weekend clash at Anfield.
Rest Rio Ferdinand for Liverpool?
While there will inevitably be a lot of focus on tonight, as we have already alluded, it is impossible not to ignore the weekend's clash with Liverpool. Rio Ferdinand has recently renewed his defensive partnership with Nemanja Vidic, keeping a clean sheet at the weekend, but are the days gone where he can play three matches in a week? Don't forget he has only just returned from injury himself, and United brought Jonny Evans off the bench for the final quarter of an hour against the Latics, potentially to give him some first team football ahead of this clash. For the reason of wanting to keep Ferdinand in good shape, Evans may get the nod, but like the goalkeeping situation, rotating the defence was one area where it all went wrong last year.
Rest Paul Scholes for Liverpool?
Paul Scholes is in the same situation as Rio Ferdinand, with Sir Alex Ferguson reluctant to play him more than twice in a week. Scholes was ineffective at Anfield the last time he started against them in 2011, a 3-0 loss for the club, and Ferguson will not want him going into the match weary. Nowadays it seems the midfielder is integral to the club, but we suspect Tom Cleverley (himself rested against Wigan), Michael Carrick, and Shinji Kagawa will get the nod to form a midfield three.
Start Robin van Persie on his own?
No chances were taken with Van Persie at the weekend, after an injury scare while on international duty, but he is a near certainty to get the nod tonight. But will it be on his own? Obviously there will be no Wayne Rooney, but Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez will each feel they have a decent shout of starting. Welbeck may be yet to score this season, but he has looked bright for both United and England, while Hernandez scored a typical poacher's goal at the weekend, in addition to a strike for Mexico last week. He is coming into form at the right time, and it may pay dividends to start him with van Persie, if the right tactical formation to allow it can be found.
What your your line-up for tonight look like?
image: © nasmac