Gerrard calls for cool heads
STEVEN Gerrard has called on the Liverpool and Manchester United players to take a "responsible" approach into tomorrow's FA Cup fourth-round clash at Anfield.
The Liverpool captain's euphoria at helping his side to Wembley in the Carling Cup has been tempered by concerns about the immediate visit of arch-rivals United.
Although the tie is one of the most anticipated fixtures of the season, recent events mean the interest it is generating is not entirely virtuous.
It will be the first meeting of the teams since their furious row following the race abuse allegations by Patrice Evra against Luis Suarez, which were upheld by the English Football Association.
Suarez will attend as a spectator as he serves the seventh game of his eight-match suspension which followed the incident at Anfield.
The South American has attended all Liverpool's home games during his ban and his club see no reason why he should not take his place in the directors' box as he did against Manchester City in midweek, well away from the public gaze.
But there is no escaping the fear that the most distasteful elements of the United and Liverpool fan base will sabotage any attempt for the game to remembered solely for events on the pitch.
Nearly 6,000 United fans will travel to Merseyside, and the usual heightened police security will be in place.
Both clubs have been warned by the FA to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner, and managers Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish will be expected to strike a conciliatory tone in their pre-match media briefings today.
Gerrard has led the way with an appeal of his own. "We do all have a responsibility," he said.
"With fair play going on and the campaigns that have been going on for a long time, we all have a responsibility to ensure that this game is remembered for the football.
"Liverpool and Man United is a massive rivalry and of course there is going to be stuff in the papers and banter between fans, but it would be fantastic if after the weekend it is remembered for being a top game and obviously, from our point of view, a Liverpool win.
"We don't want any front page stories from this game or any stories besides a football match between two top sides and may the best team win."
Ferguson has indicated Evra will start as captain, despite the inevitably fearsome reaction he will get from the Kop.
Merseyside police have also warned both sets of fans there will be no tolerance if the usual crowd taunts associated with the fixture cross the line into anything more sinister.
There have been numerous incidents between the fans at Anfield and Old Trafford in recent years, albeit limited to a small minority who appear to thrive on the aggravation.
Similarly, the Suarez affair has encouraged the most excessively blinkered view from both Old Trafford and Anfield to reinvigorate their dislike for each other.
The players do not want the heat to be taken out of their rivalry, but there have been few occasions when even pre-match declarations of intent to defeat the other require careful consideration.
Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt is keen to complete a glorious Manchester cup double having ended City's Wembley hopes in midweek.
The Dutchman, who is yet to win a trophy at Anfield, is desperate to end his tag as a 'nearly man' for Liverpool. "We've been a nearly team during my time here," Kuyt said.
"I've been here a while now and played in a Champions League final, a Champions League semi-final, a Europa League semi-final and finished second in the Premier League.
"It's not enough to be second. It will be great to not only knock City out of the Carling Cup, but to then knock United out of the FA Cup."