Football: Ferguson demands more pride

THE REBEL Manchester United supporters can take at face value BSkyB's promise not to further tamper with kick-off times if their Old Trafford takeover is successful. Why should they? The satellite broadcaster is doing it already.

United versus Liverpool is arguably the fiercest-fought match in the Premiership season and a fixture as redolent of Lancashire tradition as hot pot. So they play it on the day least accustomed to hosting football, Thursday.

If you are one of Old Trafford's long-distance season ticket holders who has no chance of making the match after work then you will be interested, if not wholly surprised, in the reason: television.

BSkyB wanted to show the game live but its normal transmission times of Sunday or Monday were ruled out because of both clubs' European commitments next week. Saturday morning was mooted, as it has been for this fixture in the past, but then someone saw a gap in the crowded calendar. Hence tonight's 8pm kick-off.

The change has been embraced by the clubs because it gives them more time to prepare for Bayern Munich and Kosice respectively, but when United need to cultivate as many friends as possible among their supporters - yesterday the 28,000 shareholders were mailed leaflets opposing the BSkyB takeover - the timing is unfortunate.

Tonight's match will be the eighth shown live on television in the last nine days (Match of the Day highlights were shown on Saturday in addition), which ought to merit a reference to the Monopolies Commission, if only from the sizeable chunk of the population who have no interest in football. It ought to be too much, except this match whets even over-fed appetites.

"You never know how these games will go because they are two good teams," Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said yesterday. "It's always a hard game, passionate and entertaining, and there are a lot of good players on both sides. It's an amazing derby because this is not a new-found rivalry, it's been going on for three decades at least, at city level as well as between the teams."

United gave their fans every reason to fear the worst in this pressure- cooker game with a performance against Arsenal on Sunday which was so flaccid that to describe their display as limp would be to insult ingrowing toenail sufferers. "I hope my players realise how badly they let themselves down," Ferguson said, darkly.

One could question the United manager's tactic of playing Ryan Giggs and Dwight Yorke against the towering Arsenal central defenders, but what was particularly disappointing was the lack of force in midfield. Angels normally fear to tread when Roy Keane and Nicky Butt are snapping; on Sunday, even before Butt was sent off, Patrick Vieira and Michael Hughes were allowed to dominate.

"Roy Keane is not a good loser," Ferguson said, anticipating a positive reaction tonight from a player who spent nearly a year recovering from a knee injury. "He won't have enjoyed what happened on Sunday.

"He's done better than I thought. We'll have to give him a break soon because he's been out for a long time and although he can survive on adrenalin for a few games he will hit a plateau or even dip. He needs to restore his energy levels."

A fully fit Keane against Paul Ince would be a clash to savour, particularly as the latter was described as a "big-time charlie" by Ferguson this week in a television documentary. Ince missed Saturday's draw against Charlton, however, and is doubtful for tonight.

His presence will be missed because, after comprehensively defeating Kosice in Slovakia, Liverpool were fortunate to get a point on Saturday when their chronic defensive flaws were exposed once more. Each year you expect something better from this richly talented team but, even though players come and go, the character - hair-wrenchingly inconsistent - remains the same.

There lies the key to the match. Last season Liverpool were reduced to 10 men for a half after Michael Owen was sent off yet they held on for a draw, denting United's title challenge. A show of similar backbone could embarrass United, but who knows how this fickle team will perform tonight? "There are no worries about motivating the players. They don't come any bigger than us against United," Liverpool's joint-manager, Roy Evans, said.

"I have plenty of players," Ferguson said, mindful of both sides' natures. "I just have to pick the right team. The Giggs-Yorke partnership didn't work at all against Arsenal but it doesn't mean I won't try it again. There won't be a lot of changes although I have options, including bringing in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Andy Cole and Paul Scholes."

If that suggests Ferguson is unlikely to release any of his squad, it is correct. Crystal Palace are rumoured to want Teddy Sheringham and Aston Villa have inquired about Andy Cole, but neither will succeed.

"I want to win the lottery but I can't," Ferguson said. "There are no players for sale. We need a strong squad to survive the season and we've got one. I think we should keep it."

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone