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Before the storm: Ferguson appeals for Anfield calm

United boss Alex Ferguson hopes fourth round tie will be remembered for footballing reasons.

Image: Tim Hales/AP/Press Association Images

ALEX FERGUSON HAS taken the unusual step of echoing the comments of Steven Gerrard to inspire both sets of supporters to ‘behave properly’ during tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth round fixture.

The fall-out from Manchester United’s previous visit to face Liverpool at Anfield is still on-going. Luis Suarez, accused and found guilty of making racist comments to Patrice Evra, will tomorrow sit out the seventh of his eight match ban.

Speaking at his press conference this morning, Ferguson expressed the hope that this game would only generate healdines about the football on show.

“As Steven Gerrard said yesterday, there is a responsibility on the players to behave properly and also both sets of fans. We want to make sure we are talking about the game, nothing else.”

There is little likelihood that Ferguson would withdraw Evra from the match. United are currently in the midst of a defensive injury crisis and the fullback has been one of the few, consistently in the starting line up. Ferguson, though, would not comment when asked about the selection.

Last week, the United boss also took the measure of writing to his club’s supporters, those that have tickets for the game, again urging them to co-operate with Anfield stewards while providing “positive, witty and loud” support for the visitors.

In a rare show of streamlined thinking, United and Liverpool appear to be on the same page on the issue as managing director at Anfield, Ian Ayre, told BBC radio: ”We mustn’t detract from fans chanting and singing at each other but it needs to be a rivalry thing rather than a hatred thing.”

“We have massive rivalry with Manchester United but those who are respectful also have respect for them because they are a great footballing side and team and, like us, they have been very successful.”

“The banter on the terraces is great, both managers feel that as do the players. Far from trying to neutralise it we want our fans to be as vocal as they normally are against Manchester United.”

United are said to have serious concerns over the fitness of Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones for the lunchtime kick off tomorrow. Nani could be facing a further six weeks on the sideline with a foot injury.

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Sean Farrell

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