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Manchester United v Liverpool: Preview
Published : 19 Sep 2010 10:17:09
Sir Alex Ferguson is preparing to recall all his big guns for Sunday's eagerly-anticipated Premier League encounter with Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Dimitar Berbatov has already been assured his place in the Red Devils starting line-up and will almost certainly be joined by Edwin van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Paul Scholes, who all missed Tuesday's draw with Rangers.
Antonio Valencia (ankle) is out until February, so more responsibility falls on the shoulders of Nani.
Ferguson is hoping to extend the hand of friendship to Liverpool again now that Rafael Benitez has gone. Roy Hodgson has become the seventh Reds boss during Ferguson's time at Manchester United.
Despite the intense rivalry between the two north-west giants, Ferguson has tended to enjoy a harmonious relationship with his managerial counterpart. That was not the case with Benitez. The Spaniard became increasingly fixated on Ferguson, claiming at one point that the United manager was treated with kid gloves by the game's authorities compared to everyone else.
Ferguson did have one public attack on Benitez, over what was perceived to be a "disrespectful" 'game over' signal during an encounter with Sam Allardyce's Blackburn, but largely seemed content to let Benitez vent his spleen without response.
"I have never been personal. You have to examine him, not me," said Ferguson, referring to Benitez's conduct. "I have always enjoyed a good relationship with Liverpool managers. Both clubs have always addressed the situation properly after the games.
"That changed under the last regime. It is not a big issue for me."
Striker Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard return to Liverpool's starting line-up as manager Hodgson restores his strongest side. The pair were left out of Thursday's Europa League victory as Hodgson made eight changes and he likely to effect a similar number at Old Trafford.
Joe Cole will play only his second Barclays Premier League match of the season after serving a three-game ban. Hodgson hopes his long friendship Ferguson will not be tested now he is manager of Liverpool.
However, he is not averse to annoying the man he considers the greatest British manager of his generation by getting one over the Scot in terms of the result. "I certainly regard him as a friend. Whether he regards me as a friend you'd have to ask him," said the 62-year-old, who revealed he telephoned Ferguson when he took over at Liverpool.
"I spoke to him in a jocular way, I asked him the question 'Does it mean now I've taken the Liverpool job that we don't speak to each other?' - he didn't put the phone down but he made some cutting remark.
"The friendship hasn't been affected by me becoming Liverpool manager.I'm sure he will offer me a glass of wine when I go to the game on Sunday and I'll offer him one when he comes here.
"But during the match there is no room for sentiment and I'll be hoping desperately things go our way and he'll be hoping things go his way."