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Sep 21, 2012

PK problems don't worry Alex Ferguson

Of all the issues rolling round in Sir Alex Ferguson's mind ahead of Manchester United's visit to Liverpool on Sunday, a woeful recent penalty record is not among them.

So far this term, United has been awarded three spot kicks and all of them have been squandered.

Nani was the latest to fail Wednesday against Galatasaray, completing an unhappy hat trick after Robin van Persie was unable to convert at Southampton and Javier Hernandez was repelled by Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi last weekend.

Ferguson is pretty certain that run will not be extended at Anfield, however.

"It will not be an issue," he said. "I have been here 25 years and 10 months. I have had one penalty kick at Anfield -- Denis Irwin scored it in 1999 -- so I don't need to talk about that. Wait until the next game."

Of far more significance are the commemorations to mark the first Liverpool home game since the damning judgement on the Hillsborough tragedy was released last week.

It means emotions will run even higher than normal, and fears about the conduct of United fans have already been expressed following the anti-Liverpool chants of a small minority last weekend.

Ferguson believes enough has now been said, and the players should be allowed to get on with the game. But he reminded fans all he is asking for is the boundaries of respectability to be observed, not an entire breaking down of enemy lines.

"I don't think it will change in terms of the animosity towards each other," said Ferguson.

It is expected Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez, whose relationship has a troubled past, will do their part for the occasion by shaking hands in the normal prematch ritual.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers expects the emotionally-charged contest to pass off without crowd problems.

"Liverpool-Manchester United games are always very emotional," Rodgers said. "You add to that the findings of the last couple of weeks and it makes it even more emotional. First and foremost, we want to pay tribute to the families, the victims and the survivors. It is our chance to do that. After the fight of the last 23 years, it is the very least we can do. There has been dialogue all week, there is respect in terms of the traditions of both clubs."

Rodgers is still waiting for his first Barclays Premier League win as Reds boss, having collected just two points from the opening four games.

For the club and fans there could be no better time to put that right than when Manchester United visits Anfield.

"This is a game I have grown up with as the biggest game in British football -- Liverpool v Manchester United," Rodgers said. "From my time growing up as a child, through my teenage years and right the way through -- two massive clubs, iconic clubs worldwide. To be involved right in the middle of it is wonderful, and it should be a wonderful game.

Rodgers said he's confident his team is about to change its fortunes. Liverpool came from behind to claim a draw at Sunderland last weekend before a much-changed side overturned a 3-2 deficit in Switzerland on Thursday to beat Young Boys 5-3 in the Europa League.

"Our players have been outstanding since I came in here, absolutely first class. We haven't had the rub of the green in some of the games but every day our spirit is getting better and stronger, the more we get to work with each other. You could see that in the last two games."

United's Jonny Evans has no doubts the Red Devils' trip to Liverpool remains one of the highlights of England's football calendar.

"The history of the two clubs makes it one of the biggest games in English football," said Evans. "The distance thing, the Merseyside-Manchester rivalry and all the history that goes with it means it will be no different on Sunday.

"You can go through tactics and talk about how many points the teams have this season but it all goes out of the window when it comes to a Manchester United-Liverpool game. There is goodness knows how many years of rivalry to take into account as well."

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