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Fergie: Liverpool remain biggest rivals

Sir Alex Ferguson claims Liverpool remain Manchester United's most fierce rivals as the two clubs prepare to meet in an FA Cup fourth-round tie.

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Ferguson admits Manchester City are catching up fast, but insists matches against the Reds are still the biggest of the season. The last time United went to Anfield in the FA Cup, though, they were beaten by a solitary Peter Crouch goal and Alan Smith ended up in hospital with an horrific leg injury, but Ferguson is optimistic about Saturday's encounter.

"You cannot dismiss the progress City are making completely but at the moment the Liverpool game is still the one," he said. "The atmosphere at Anfield is terrific. You can work all your life to a point where you are challenged.

"Our results at Liverpool in the last two or three years have not been great but both clubs will always have their moments but it is such a great rivalry."

Meanwhile, a massive security operation has been put in place for the Anfield clash, which will be the first time the north-west rivals have met since 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 club have now switched their stance completely and warned supporters any racist abuse will not be tolerated.

Ferguson has followed that up by pleading with supporters and players to ensure the occasion is remembered only for the quality of the football. The Scot flatly refused to speak directly about Evra, or whether he would play.

"It is a massive game for both clubs. There is a tremendous profile on it and there 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."

Indeed, Ferguson refused to offer any injury updates on his squad, 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.

The Scot was impressed by Liverpool's midweek performance against Manchester City, believing they will get a lift from booking their place in the Carling Cup final. However, Ferguson believes his side can end the Reds' run in the FA Cup.

"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."


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