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Fergie's pride on the line

Manchester United put their impressive recent record against Arsenal on the line tonight with Alex Ferguson admitting nothing can be taken for granted by his misfiring side.

Premier League defeats to Chelsea and Liverpool have left the Red Devils licking their wounds this week.

Another reverse at Old Trafford would represent the first time the Red Devils have lost three games on the trot since May 2001.

Yet they could not have chosen better opponents to face from the so-called 'big four'.



Competitive

United have lost just one of their last 10 meetings with the Gunners and recorded a narrow league triumph on their last meeting in December.

Not that Ferguson feels statistics alone can play any part in the chase for an FA Cup semi-final spot.

"Matches against Arsenal are always hard and competitive," said the United boss.

"You hope to perform properly in these games and our recent record is an indication that we have done that.

"But you don't take anything for granted because when two good teams meet each other you want to be the better team on the day."

United will be weakened by the absence of up to 10 senior players, including Nani, who suffered a serious gash to his leg in a challenge with Liverpool's Jamie Carragher at Anfield on Sunday.

Many observers felt the tackle warranted a red card and Carragher apologised immediately after the game.

Ferguson kept his own counsel after imposing a media ban and, even though he was not interested in getting involved in a debate on the matter yesterday, his one remark showed the depth of feeling.

"It was a disgraceful tackle, we know that, but you just move on," he said.

It was part of a succession of debatable decisions over the past fortnight that have reignited discussion about refereeing standards at home and abroad, with both Ferguson and his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger facing improper conduct charges over critical comments that the game's authorities believed went beyond the boundaries of acceptability.

The controversies stemmed from Wayne Rooney's attack on James McCarthy at Wigan a fortnight ago, which almost all observers felt was worthy of a red card but the Football Association were powerless to act once referee Mark Clattenburg confirmed he had seen the incident.



Irritant

Clearly it is an irritant to Ferguson that the subject is still being discussed.

"I've nothing really to say about it," he said. "It has been well-documented, although most of you have still been going on about Rooney and why he's not been punished and that was 11 days ago."