FA to lay down law to Liverpool and United ahead of loaded Cup tie
THE English Football Association will write to Liverpool and Manchester United ahead of their potentially incendiary FA Cup fourth-round tie, reminding the clubs of their responsibilities not to inflame the rivalry of fans.
With tensions likely to be running high between the clubs, after Luis Suarez's conviction on a charge of directing the word "negro" towards United's Patrice Evra when the clubs last met at Anfield, on October 15, the FA intends to ensure that neither Alex Ferguson nor Kenny Dalglish make comments which may prove even more inflammatory in the build-up to the match on the weekend of January 28-29.
The FA, which will have an official crowd observer in place at the tie, also intend to speak individually to the two clubs, as it did with United and Manchester City before the third-round match, to take the temperature of the fixture.
Discussions yesterday between Liverpool FC, the city council and Merseyside Police resulted in a likely ticket allocation of more than 6,000 for United fans.
The allocation was restricted to 1,690 for October's controversial Premier League game but the conduct of United fans at that fixture has meant that those restrictions have been lifted. The maximum entitlement is 6,791, though Liverpool's ground safety advisory panel has reduced that number by 300.
The FA has not yet been contacted by Liverpool, but the club intend to pursue an inquiry into the disciplinary process by which Suarez was handed an eight-game ban. The ban will have concluded in time for him to face an Old Trafford replay, if the fourth-round tie requires one.
Ferguson, who last night was given the Fifa presidential award for services to football at the Ballon d'Or gala in Zurich, has given the impression that he has no intention of heeding Dalglish's request for help from United to ensure that Suarez is not submitted to abuse in the clubs' league fixture on 11 February.
But with United unhappy about Liverpool's criticism of Evra's reliability as a witness in the Suarez case, Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre yesterday made the first move to take the sting out of the fixture.
"With all that's gone on, people will talk about it and talk about it but I think the most important thing for us is to make sure that we make it a great day and a great game," Ayre said.
"We need to make sure that we all work together to make sure that everybody concentrates on the excitement of the football and not on anything else."
Evra has declared that those who had written off his club after two successive defeats "don't want to respect the story" of the Premier League champions and insisted that the players' self-belief would see them beat Manchester City to the title.
Evra, who was speaking on condition that no questions be posed about the racism allegations, declared that: "Manchester United never die. A lot of people forget that, they don't want to respect the story.
"We have to think this year is going to be difficult to win the title, but if we believe and if we work hard... it will be difficult for teams to beat us."