16/03/2009 12:13,
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The Manager's Column

Sir Alex pens his thoughts ahead of every home match for United Review, the first page to turn to for fans, press and opponents alike. Even though United lost to Liverpool, Saturday's column makes good reading. So here it is, in full...

This is probably the first time for nearly 20 years that Liverpool have come to Old Trafford with thoughts of winning the league! So we are ready for an onslaught because this fixture is already, and always has been, the hottest derby in town.

This is the one that really counts, more so this season because Liverpool and Chelsea are the teams that realistically stand between us and winning the title again. Which one of them poses the bigger threat? I’ll tell you after today, but first we welcome Rafael Benitez and his men this afternoon for what promises to be a humdinger of a game.

Historically, as well as in football, Manchester and Liverpool have long been huge rivals, and over the years have vied for supremacy over each other. The opening of the Manchester Ship Canal challenged Liverpool’s sea trade, and opened a competitive edge between the cities that is reflected in football. The 1980s were a golden period for the Liverpool team. They had a good side and monopolised the league. Since then we have written a bit of history ourselves, and the more recent era has belonged to us, but you can never take anything for granted when it comes to football involving United and Liverpool.

For instance, even when Liverpool were gathering in the bulk of the titles and were doing well in Europe, they still had a problem beating Ron Atkinson’s United teams. Similarly, Liverpool have refused to lie down in face of our recent triumphs, and have reached two Champions League finals. Both clubs have enjoyed amazing success over the past 30 years, and today’s match will once more be fiercely fought and incredibly intense. I doubt whether we will be able to take our eyes off the action.

My problem going into the match has been making sure I pick the right team, with so little time between our big European game against Inter Milan on Wednesday and today. I had my team for the Inter game picked a week before, and built my selections for the Carling Cup final and the FA Cup tie at Fulham around it. With the Liverpool fixture another mighty challenge, I have had to wait to see whether I had a full complement of players, given some will have had just two and a half days’ recovery time.


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