Football: Clubs quiet on Ferguson taunt

AS LIVERPOOL and Manchester United prepared to meet at Anfield tomorrow night, both clubs were trying to play down the ramifications of Alex Ferguson's "big time Charlie" insult to Paul Ince, his former player, during the team talk in last night's ITV documentary, The Alex Ferguson Story.

"It is a documentary," Ferguson said. "They filmed a team talk which actually lasted half an hour and they have used just a few bits."

For Liverpool's part, Roy Evans, their joint coach, refused to discuss the matter. Ince, too, was unwilling to react to Ferguson's attack, in which he also branded the England midfielder as a bully and warned his side to play like men and stand up to the Liverpool skipper.

Ince is only 50-50 to play in the match as he needs to overcome a knee problem that has kept him out of the last two Liverpool fixtures. Striker Karlheinz Riedle is fit again after a groin problem and has given Evans and Gerard Houllier, Liverpool's co-manager, the problem of which pairing to play from the German, Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler. The likelihood is that Fowler will be on the substitutes' bench.

United's own injury problems worsened yesterday with Ronny Johnsen struggling to overcome the ankle injury which has caused him to miss United's last two games. He is unlikely to be available.

David May and Teddy Sheringham, who both have knee problems, are also losing the battle to be fit.

Meanwhile, Ferguson is unmoved by Aston Villa's intention to prise Andy Cole away from Old Trafford. "I have nothing to report on Andy Cole," he said. "It is not an issue."

United have been charged by the Football Association following the failure of defender Wes Brown to report for international duty with the England Under-18 squad.

Brown had been selected by Howard Wilkinson to take part in the Uefa Under-18 Championship game in Cyprus in July but did not attend.

United have been charged under the FA rule which obliges clubs to provide medical reports for players deemed unfit to report for international duty. The club have 14 days to respond to the charge and to request a hearing.

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