Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney will miss the visit of Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday with a knee injury, manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed.

Rooney picked up the knee problem during training on Christmas Day, and has missed the club's last four games.

And while Ferguson expects the 26 year old to return to training on Friday, Rooney will no part in the crucial clash with Liverpool as United seek to retain their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Wayne Rooney
Rooney has missed United's last four games.

"I'm hoping Wayne will start training today actually, in which case he won't be far away," Ferguson said.

"I don't think it's a big issue but it will help him along. The injury is quite straightforward so if he starts today we should have him available for Wednesday's game."

Javier Hernandez and Robin van Persie are likely to start in attack for United in Rooney's absence against a Liverpool side looking for their first win at Old Trafford since 2009.

Elsewhere, the injury news is good for United with Nani, who hasn't featured since November, and Phil Jones, both on the comeback trail with the former set to return to the squad against The Reds.

"Nani's back in training and will be in the squad on Sunday. Phil Jones is back, although I think Wednesday [against West Ham United in the FA Cup] is more likely for him," Ferguson gleamed.

"Anderson has been back training for 10 days so he'll be in the squad on Sunday. All in all, we're in a healthy situation. How long it will last I don't know, but it's good to have them back.

"It's a derby game - it's intense, emotional," Ferguson added. "Everything you can think of in a derby game will be there on Sunday. We go into the game in reasonable form."

After United take on Liverpool, Ferguson will be seeking favours from old advisory Arsene Wenger as his Arsenal side host Manchester City at The Emirates Stadium, a game that last season almost saw Robert Mancini's side's title challenge unravel.

Possessing a seven-point lead with 17 games left, the weekend could play a pivotal role in deciding the destination of the championship.