Sir Alex Ferguson claims that Liverpool is still Manchester United’s most-anticipated match despite the Anfield club’s recent slump.
Ferguson is preparing his side to meet Roy Hodgson’s team on Sunday, with the two clubs level on 18 English league titles each.
The Scot admitted that when he arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 that his aim was to knock Liverpool “off their perch”.
While United were pipped by Chelsea to the Premier League title last season, Liverpool finished a disappointing seventh.
But even though Ferguson claims Chelsea are United’s main title rivals and neighbours City have once again spent heavily in the transfer market, he insists that games against Liverpool remain the biggest days in his year.
He said: “I say time and again when this fixture comes about. It is the fixture, no doubt about that.
“Historically it’s always been that way. I don’t need to always look at the history.
“Even industrially, it was always been a competition between Liverpool and Manchester since the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal so it’s always going to be there.”
Ferguson’s interaction with Roy Hodgson’s predecessor Rafa Benitez was notoriously frosty.
The United manager maintains he never made the relationship “personal” but is full of praise for Benitez’s replacement.
He added: “I’ve never been personal. You have to examine him (Benitez), not me, I’ve never been personal.
“I’ve always enjoyed a good relationship with the Liverpool managers and both clubs have always addressed the situation properly after games. That changed under the last regime, but it’s not a big issue for me.
“Roy has got experience and did a great job at Fulham. I’ve known Roy a long time. We first met in 1987 I think on one of these aborted trips to Malmo when they aborted the game after one minute.
“It was a European tie against Ajax and he was at the game and we went to dinner after it.
“I’ve known him a long time and he’s gathered a wealth of experience in Italy, in Switzerland, Finland and Scandinavia and the job he did at Fulham was extraordinary.”
Ferguson claims that United did not follow up the opportunity to sign Joe Cole, who joined Liverpool on a free transfer from Chelsea during the summer.
“We were approached by his agent at one point but we didn’t enter into it (discussions) at all. It was maybe just complicated to get involved in that,” he said.
The United manager is set to make a host of changes for the Liverpool game and must decide whether to replace Rio Ferdinand with Jonny Evans, while Edwin van der Sar and Dimitar Berbatov are set to return.
Hodgson is also set to bring back the likes of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard after resting players for the 4-1 Europa League win over Steaua Bucharest, while Cole returns from a domestic suspension.
The Liverpool manager feels the fixture is comparable to the meetings between his former club Inter Milan and Juventus, not that he likes to be reminded of his record in that fixture.
He said: “It compares with Inter v Juventus. The Milan derby was a big occasion but the ‘Derby d’Italia’, Inter v Juventus, was the real killer one and it certainly compares with that. In terms of the interest it generates in the two cities and the whole country.
“When Inter played Juventus it was something which occupied the thoughts and minds and generated the opinions of the whole country.
“It’s a little bit like that with Liverpool and Manchester United. It transcends the north western rivalry and is perhaps even global because both clubs are so big outside of England.”
“I didn’t like losing, which I did quite often. We did poorly and I would like to change that, it’d be nice.”
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