"The minute we started bringing European and South American players into the country, you’re never going to keep them for long periods," he conceded. "With four-year contracts, you’re lucky to keep them for that. We were lucky to have Cristiano Ronaldo for six years, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic for seven years now and Peter Schmeichel stayed eight years. We’re very lucky that way but not every club can say that."
Even though there may not be too many Mancunians and Merseysiders in the starting line-ups this weekend, the passion will not be lacking from the two sets of players.
"You’ll see on Sunday it will be 100 per cent commitment from both teams," Sir Alex added. "But if you look back a number of years, there was a link with more English players and quite a few from this area, who would know exactly what it meant. They grew up supporting United as kids and were in the Stretford End, the likes of Nicky Butt, Scholes, Giggsy and Neville. All of them grew up with it.
"Liverpool, going back a bit further, had a lot of local players too – Ian Rush, Jimmy Case, Sammy Lee - all the local players they had at the time. It would mean a lot to them as they were living in it with that cocoon around them where their neighbours are supporters and things like that."
For the record, in Sir Alex's first battle with Liverpool, at Anfield in 1986, he selected four players who came through the ranks at Old Trafford.