Ferguson wants derby to be just about football
MANCHESTER - ReutersThe calls for calm towards frenzied fans before Manchester United travel to Liverpool were at odds with manager Alex Ferguson’s desire on Jan. 27 to simply talk about “a game of football”.
But even without the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra racism row hanging over the Jan. 28 FA Cup fourth round meeting at Anfield (1245 GMT), a match between English football’s archrivals is never just a game.
Just ask the United fans sporting the “Liverpool 18 Manchester 19” T-shirts, referring to league titles won, or the Liverpool supporters waving the “We’re not racists, we only hate mancs” banner.
While much of the rivalry is acerbic banter, hostility can boil over and turn physical and the chants can become abusive.
Such is the intensity of a Liverpool-Manchester derby that Ferguson wrote to his travelling fans this week urging them to give “positive, witty and loud” support, respect stewards and follow the ground regulations.
Forgetting the gloating over who has won more league titles (United) and European Cups (Liverpool) and a rivalry between two north west cities stretching back to the Industrial Revolution, this weekend’s meeting has a fresher fish to fry.
The cup match is the first meeting between the teams since Liverpool striker Suarez was given an eight-match ban for racially abusing United left back Evra in their Premier League game at Anfield in October.
Ferguson steered clear of the issue on Friday with a terse “I’m not getting involved in that, right” when asked whether his French defender would be playing in the match, which comes as Suarez is still serving his ban.
“At the end of the day we want to talk about a game of football,” Ferguson said. “It’s a big FA Cup tie -- there’s no doubt about it.
He backed Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s call for both clubs “to ensure that this game is remembered for the football”, saying he expected his players to behave properly.