Ferguson eager to renew ''fiesty'' Leeds rivalry
Manchester United and Leeds United will rekindle one of the fiercest rivalries in England after a five-year hiatus on Sunday and Alex Ferguson is anticipating the FA Cup clash as eagerly as anyone.
United manager Ferguson, celebrating his 68th birthday on Thursday, said he expected the third round tie at Old Trafford to bring back stirring memories of matches against Leeds, who were relegated from the Premier League in 2004.
"Over the years they have always been fantastic, feisty occasions every time we met," he said at a news conference. "We used to have some great games at Leeds because the atmosphere was always electric and our record was pretty good there.
"There was always a tinge of hostility. I always said to the players, make sure you behave yourselves properly on the pitch because we don't need to add to the problems off the pitch, the way that hostility always seemed to hover around the game.
"They are bringing 9,000 fans so it is going to be a busy day for the police. But it will be a fantastic atmosphere, absolutely brilliant, it should be a good cup tie."
United and Leeds not only enjoyed a fierce rivalry in league matches over the years but their FA Cup semi-final battles in 1965 and 1970 are remembered as being among the most gruelling battles seen in the competition's long history.
Leeds won both ties after replays, but unlike Manchester United, who have won the FA Cup a record 11 times compared to the solitary Leeds success in 1972, the glory days of the West Yorkshire club are long behind them.
At least the club are now seemingly set on the path back to regaining their former status with promotion to the Championship looking likely at the end of this season.
Ferguson said he thought current manager Simon Grayson would soon return Leeds to the highest level of the English game.
"With the position they are in in their league, they look absolutely certain to be in the Championship next year and, with the motivation and drive coming from the manager, I think they've got a great chance to be in the Premier League the next couple of years," Ferguson predicted.
Police are taking every precaution to ensure the match goes ahead without trouble.
Superintendent John Graves, Greater Manchester Police's Match Commander, told a news conference on Thursday: "There are a lot of similarities between the two clubs. Both clubs have got great support and there's a lot of pride and passion and both clubs have suffered loss and tragedy.
"We've categorised this as an increased risk match and a lot of that is just because of the sheer volume of fans and the time of year.
"It's the last holiday day before people go back to work so it's the last opportunity to celebrate and we don't want anyone to spoil it or alcohol to be the cause of disorder."