Rivals have moved on from Suarez-Evra row – Ferguson
Alex Ferguson has claimed that Manchester United and Liverpool have drawn a line under the racism controversy sparked by the behaviour of Luis Suarez towards Patrice Evra last season.
Liverpool forward Suarez, who was suspended for eight games and fined £40,000 last season for racially abusing Evra, is due to return to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time since rejecting the French defender's hand in the pre-match handshake prior to last February's Premier League defeat against United.
Suarez has since blamed the "political power" of United for the length of his suspension, while Ferguson claimed at the end of last season that the saga surrounding the Uruguay striker ultimately cost Kenny Dalglish his job as Liverpool manager.
But with Suarez and Evra having shaken hands prior to the league game at Anfield earlier this season – the Premier League has confirmed that the pre-match ritual will go ahead as usual on Sunday – Ferguson insists that both clubs can now move on.
"Last year, it was unfortunate with the Suarez behaviour," Ferguson said. "But I think, it's behind both clubs now and we can just look forward to the game.
"There will always be a certain build-up to a Manchester United-Liverpool game, simply because of the history between the two clubs, the two most successful in the country. It brings its own agenda in terms of profile and pre-match discussion."
As a result of the apparent cooling in the temperature between the two clubs, there are no plans on this occasion for Ferguson to appeal to the United supporters for respect towards their traditional rivals in terms of unsavoury chanting, as the Scot did prior to the fixture at Anfield in September.
United also donated one-off tracksuit tops worn that day, bearing the number 96, in memory of those Liverpool fans killed at Hillsborough, to an auction aimed at raising funds for the Hillsborough Family Support Group and anti-Liverpool chanting has noticeably diminished at Old Trafford since the last meeting between the clubs.
United go into Sunday's game with Ferguson admitting that he is planning to rotate his central defenders for the remainder of the season, raising concerns over the extent of Nemanja Vidic's recovery from knee surgery earlier in this campaign.
The United captain, who returned to action at the start of the season, following a cruciate ligament injury sustained in December 2011, has since spent three months on the sidelines following surgery to correct meniscus damage in his right knee.
Vidic has made just four appearances in a month since his comeback against Sunderland and Ferguson admits that, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones now fully fit following their own injury problems, he will rest both Vidic and Rio Ferdinand in the coming weeks.
"We are rotating at the moment with Rio and Vidic," Ferguson said. "The return of Smalling and Jones is definitely a help because we can then alternate Vidic and Ferdinand.
"Jonny Evans has been absolutely magnificent and he's progressed by playing regularly. With Smalling and Jones, their careers at United have been interrupted by injury and you hope long-term things will settle down for them and they'll be OK. But it's good to have them all because they're all very good players."
Ferguson, meanwhile, has claimed that United can go on to win the Champions League this season if they overcome Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo in next month's last-16 tie against the Spanish champions.
Ferguson believes that winning that tie would leave his players with nothing to fear. "There is no doubt at all that you needn't fear anyone if you win that tie," he said.
"I look at the competition this year and there are four teams we have to pay attention to, and obviously we're drawn against one of them.
"If we get by that, then the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Barcelona will be there. Dortmund have been fantastic." (© Daily Telegraph, London)