Wayne Rooney may play no part in Manchester United's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Anfield today, after he was unable to train yesterday.
Rooney is unlikely even to feature on the bench, as ankle and calf injuries sustained at Arsenal last Sunday are believed to have prevented him from training this week. Sir Alex Ferguson's anxieties about the injuries that have afflicted his side led him to decline any discussion of the subject yesterday.
The absence of any pre-match injury discussion from the United manager is rare in the extreme and Ferguson's uneasiness was obvious. Ferguson was also displeased to be asked about Patrice Evra – a reasonable question, considering the reception that the left-back is likely to receive at Anfield.
"I'm not getting involved in that, right?" he replied. It was clear that he would tolerate no further discussion of the player, whom his assistant, Mike Phelan, has already indicated will play.
Asked by the BBC if leaving Evra out was an option, Phelan said: "Looking at the injury list, we haven't got many options. No, I don't think so – because Patrice Evra is a football player, he plays for Manchester United and if he is fit he is considered for any game of football. What's happened has happened. What's been said has been said. We are talking about a football match now."
The United manager has sanctioned Darren Fletcher – who has been ruled out for the rest of this season by a bowel condition – to undertake a coaching role with United's reserves, with duties resembling those that Paul Scholes was carrying out before his return to playing earlier this month. Fletcher is understood not to be at United's Carrington training complex every day but the part-time role is an opportunity to keep him mobile and in touch with the club.
Ferguson appealed to fans and players to ensure there is no attempt at retribution following the Liverpool striker Luis Suarez's suspension for directing the word "negro" at Evra. Ferguson said: "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."
Danny Welbeck is likely to start in Rooney's absence, though the involvement of Anderson and Ashley Young is in doubt. Phil Jones is understood to have made a good recovery from the ankle injury he sustained at Arsenal, though a back spasm may keep Rio Ferdinand out. Nani may be out for at least a month with a foot injury he picked up at the Emirates Stadium.
Of the Welbeck, Ferguson said: "We were always aware of Danny's ability as a kid. The issue is addressing his physical being. At 16, he had problems with his knee, because he was growing, and thigh problems. We see the signs now. The stats are showing there is a bit to come before he is the complete adult."
Regarding the behaviour of supporters, the Merseyside police match commander, Chief Superintendent Jon Ward, said: "We know feelings will run high but... don't let emotions overspill and take over because the message is very clear. As at Old Trafford, the CCTV at Anfield is excellent and if there is any misbehaviour we will try to track you down through CCTV. The message is that if you do come with that attitude you will regret it as you will not be able to go and watch football again."
Liverpool and United: Five Famous Fixtures
21 May 1977
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool
Stuart Pearson's early second-half goal put United ahead in the FA Cup final only for Jimmy Case's volley to level matters almost immediately. Jimmy Greenhoff's deflected shot put United back in front as three goals were scored inside four minutes and Tommy Docherty's side held on.
4 January 1994
Liverpool 3-3 Manchester United
Steve Bruce, Ryan Giggs and Denis Irwin had Sir Alex Ferguson's champions three up inside 24 minutes at Anfield, before two from Nigel Clough and a late Neil Ruddock header secured an unlikely point for Graeme Souness's side. United still went on to retain their title.
24 January 1999
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool
Michael Owen put Gérard Houllier's side ahead in the FA Cup fourth-round tie only for United to score twice in the last three minutes through Dwight Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a trend that became familiar in that treble-winning season.
14 March 2009
Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool
Liverpool surprised 10-man United to give momentum to the Merseyside club's title challenge. Fernando Torres shrugged off Nemanja Vidic to equalise Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty before Steven Gerrard's penalty gave the visitors the half-time lead. Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena secured the win after the break following Vidic's red card.
15 October 2011
Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United
Javier Hernandez equalised a Gerrard free-kick to rescue a point but the main talking point became Luis Suarez's contretemps with United's Patrice Evra. The Frenchman accused the forward of racial abuse, and the Uruguayan was eventually banned for eight games, the seventh of which he serves today.