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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » FA Cup: Ferguson wants derby to be just about football

FA Cup: Ferguson wants derby to be just about football

January 27, 2012 14:39 IST

The calls for calm towards frenzied fans before Manchester United travel to Liverpool were at odds with manager Alex Ferguson's desire on Friday to simply talk about "a game of football".

Sir Alex FergusonBut even without the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra racism row hanging over Saturday's FA Cup fourth round meeting at Anfield, a match between English soccer's arch rivals is never just a game.

Just ask the United fans sporting the "Liverpool 18 Manchester 19" T-shirts, referring to league titles won, or the Liverpool supporters waving the "We're not racists, we only hate mancs" banner.

While much of the rivalry is acerbic banter, hostility can boil over and turn physical and the chants can become abusive.

Such is the intensity of a Liverpool-Manchester derby that Ferguson wrote to his travelling fans this week urging them to give "positive, witty and loud" support, respect stewards and follow the ground regulations.

Forgetting the gloating over who has won more league titles (United) and European Cups (Liverpool) and a rivalry between two north west cities stretching back to the Industrial Revolution, this weekend's meeting has a fresher fish to fry.

Ferguson, whose team's season has been disrupted by injuries, was expecting to get "two or three" players back to training on Friday without saying who they might be.

Centre back Rio Ferdinand missed last weekend's win over Arsenal with a back problem, while fellow defender Phil Jones came off with an ankle injury and winger Nani hobbled off too. Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Evra also picked up knocks.

Saturday's match has another great rivalry at the heart of it with Ferguson coming up against Kenny Dalglish, who was the man to beat when Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 and Liverpool were enjoying successful times.

Last season he fulfilled his vow to "knock Liverpool off their perch" by leading United to a record 19th league title and Ferguson believes his feat of being in charge of the club for 25 years will never be repeated.

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