Ferguson revels in Liverpool challenge

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The uncompromising prospect of Wigan Athletic loomed into view again yesterday as part of a formidable week which could make or break Manchester United's ambitions to retain the Premier League title, if Liverpool maintain their threat.

It was to the JJB Stadium that Sir Alex Ferguson travelled to take the title on the last day of the league season in 2007-08 and United's progress to an FA Cup semi-final with Everton means that they must play the same Lancashire fixture on Wednesday 13 May this time. The game is part of potentially a pivotal seven-day spell for United, who entertain Manchester City the previous weekend and Arsenal the following one.

Ferguson, for whom Wigan are his game in hand, revealed the tension which has been associated with the tussle with Liverpool. "It can be edgy, but you have to accept the challenge. Being there is the greatest thing and that's what we are all striving for," he told Inside United magazine. "You only really relish it if you end up winning. You're prepared to go through the agony as long as you end up on top."

Meanwhile Ryan Giggs has rejected suggestions Liverpool are a two-man team. "They have genuine world-class players and where once they relied on Steven Gerrard there's now Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Jamie Carragher. When they beat us at Anfield earlier this season Gerrard and Torres weren't even playing."

Giggs also admitted Gerrard and Alonso are major rivals to members of the United for the Professional Footballers' Association Footballer of the Year award. "Gerrard and Alonso have been terrific this season," he said.

United remain favourites to win an 18th championship, equalling the long-standing record of their Merseyside rivals and Giggs is excited at the prospect of drawing level with Liverpool. "Obviously it would be brilliant because 15 years ago I don't think anyone would even have dreamed it would be possible," he said. "But I think probably it means more to the fans. It is not our motivation. You don't look back on records until you have finished your career."

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