Alex Ferguson calls for calm ahead of Anfield meeting

 

Sir Alex Ferguson has appealed for both fans and players to ensure tomorrow's FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Manchester United is memorable only for the quality of football.

The Anfield showdown will be the first time the two sides have met since October, when Patrice Evra made his racism allegations against Luis Suarez.

Although Liverpool's immediate reactions in the wake of the guilty verdict that led to Suarez being banned for eight matches left United distinctly unimpressed, the Merseyside giants have now switched their stance completely and warned supporters any racist abuse will not be tolerated.

However, whether that, and a massive security presence, are enough to take the edge off tensions between the rival sets of fans is open to debate.

The long history of animosity between the supporters even extended to an FA Youth Cup tie at Anfield last season and with over 5,000 fans in attendance, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a section of United's travelling contingent will look to inflame the situation.

Ferguson has stayed clear of the entire row since his initial confirmation that United would back Evra in whatever action he chose to take.

However, the Scot feels now is the time to try and ensure all the talk is about the game, rather than the obvious issues surrounding it.

"It is a massive game for both clubs," he said.

"There is a tremendous profile on it and will be interest throughout the country.

"As Steven Gerrard said yesterday, there is a responsibility on the players to behave properly. That is what I expect my players to do.

"Both sets of fans have got to make sure we are talking about the game and nothing else."

Earlier this week, Merseyside Police issued their own guidance, insisting they would be: "Firm, fair and friendly, but we will take action where necessary against those individuals who may seek to cause problems or misbehave."

That followed on from a letter Ferguson sent to United ticket holders, appealing for them to work with the stewards in the stadium to ensure future allocations remain high.

"We have been there this season and our fans were terrific," he said.

"The issue of clubs reducing our travelling support has been going on for quite a while now. It has become a convenient way of selling the hospitality when Manchester United come to town.

"Stewards have a difficult enough job as it is, trying to get supporters to sit down. It never happens.

"You look at every away support in the country, they all stand. The difference, as I have said to our supporters, is make sure you don't stand in the aisles.

"We should be helping. If they do that, the stewards can get on with their job."

Ferguson flatly refused to speak directly about Evra, or whether he would play.

However, assistant Mike Phelan has already said the stand-in United skipper would be available for selection, which given Ferguson's massive injury list, is hardly a surprise.

The last time United went to Anfield in the FA Cup, they were beaten by a solitary Peter Crouch goal and Alan Smith ended up in hospital with an horrific leg injury.

Ferguson would prefer to remember Eric Cantona's winner in the 1996 final at Wembley and also the fourth round encounter at Old Trafford in 1999, when his side trailed for 86 minutes, only to eventually emerge victorious thanks to late goals from Dwight Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It is because of the potential for producing such thrilling encounters, which makes Ferguson confident his hopes for a peaceful afternoon will be fulfilled.

"I am confident enough," he said.

"We want to be talking about a game of football.

"It is a big FA Cup tie. In my time there have not been many FA Cup ties between the clubs.

"It is something you want to look forward to. That is what I intend to do and the players should follow that."

If there was an attempt at mind games, it came through Ferguson's refusal to offer any injury updates, meaning Kenny Dalglish cannot know for certain whether Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand and Nani, whom it has been suggested could be out for a couple of months with the foot injury he picked up at Arsenal, will be involved or not.

Ferguson also declared that Liverpool's status as the home team makes them favourites.

However, United have beaten Manchester City and Arsenal in their last two away games, so have every reason for confidence themselves.

"We had quite a daunting programme, City, Arsenal, two games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham away, Stoke at home.

"But we're progressing through it and hopefully we get to the end of it and we've done well."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor