This is the fixture, admits Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson still does not believe there is any fixture in the Premier League calendar like Manchester United against Liverpool. The North-West giants go head-to-head at Old Trafford on Sunday both eager for points as well as bragging rights after less than perfect starts to the season. It is bound to be a keenly-contested affair, despite the fact Liverpool's wait for a 19th league title has now been extended to an incredible 20 years. During that time, United have won 11, joining their old rivals on 18 championships and coming within a victory of snatching their coveted domestic record last term. When he first came south from Aberdeen in 1986, Ferguson famously declared it was his intention to knock Liverpool off their perch. Now, as he prepares to face a seventh Reds boss in old friend Roy Hodgson, Ferguson describes what the meetings mean to him. "I sound like a parrot but this is the fixture. There is no question about that," he said. "It doesn't change. The form fluctuates quite a bit but we won the last game so hopefully that turns it back towards us again." Ferguson is correct about the swing in fortunes. From the 1996 FA Cup final to March 2000, United went 10 games unbeaten. Liverpool then won five in a row from December 2000 to January 2002. More recently, United triumphed in four successive games from October 2006, the match immediately after Alan Smith's horrific leg injury, before Liverpool responded with three straight triumphs, each of which involved a red card for Nemanja Vidic. The Red Devils emerged triumphant on the last meeting between the two sides in March earlier this year, when Park Ji-sung netted the winner. Ferguson is hoping to continue that run at the weekend, although the occasion itself should be a more friendly affair on the touchline now Hodgson has replaced Rafael Benitez. Although the United boss has enjoyed cordial relations with most Liverpool counterparts, particularly Gerard Houllier, with Benitez there was only friction. There should be none of that with Hodgson, whose friendship with Ferguson dates back to his early days at United. "I have known him for a long time," said Ferguson. "I first met him in 1987 when I went on an aborted trip to Malmo. "It was a European tie against Ajax and they abandoned it after one minute. He was at the game and we went for dinner afterwards." Ferguson is confident Hodgson will not start with a five-man defensive line as Rangers did at Old Trafford on Tuesday. And while Liverpool's fortunes do not seem to have improved significantly since their seventh-placed finish last term, Ferguson is sure their new manager can make the situation better. "Roy has the experience," he said. "He has gathered a wealth of experience in Italy, Switzerland and Finland and the job he did at Fulham was absolutely extraordinary. "But our approach will not change. We have to express ourselves the way we always do."
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