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United injury crisis for Anfield face-off

Manchester United face being without Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones and Nani for Saturday's highly-charged FA Cup tie against Liverpool at Anfield.

Ferdinand felt pain in his back in training last Thursday and, with his two-year history of back trouble, the fourth-round tie may be beyond him. United are unlikely to take any risks.

Though the injury which saw Nani limp out of the 2-1 win over Arsenal at the Emirates is not as bad as was first feared, he has told friends it may be two weeks before he is fit for selection following a suspected metatarsal injury which saw him spend the train journey home from London with his foot raised and a protective boot on.

Jones is also a likely absentee with the ankle ligament damage he sustained against the Gunners.

It remains to be seen whether the knock Patrice Evra took against Arsenal will keep him out Saturday's showdown at Anfield, where he can expect a maelstrom following Luis Suarez's high-profile racism case, prompted by the Manchester United defender asking the English FA to investigate the Uruguayan's use of the word 'negro'.

Evra said after the Emirates game that he "felt dizzy" but was "fine", which suggests he may have no qualms about his reception on Merseyside.

United manager Alex Ferguson is hoping that Tom Cleverley will begin training again this week, but the midfielder has little chance of facing Liverpool.

Ashley Young, however, is expected to be included in the United squad for Anfield following his recuperation from ankle trouble.

Ferguson has signed a letter to United supporters travelling to Saturday's match, urging them to put their emphasis on "positive, witty and loud" backing of their team in the "tense" atmosphere at Anfield.

Hostility between English football's greatest rivals has intensified in the wake of the Evra-Suarez controversy, and Ferguson's letter largely centres on the need for the United fans to avoid a potential reduction of their ticket allocation for future fixtures at Liverpool.

Ferguson said in the letter: "I wrote to fans attending the away match in October urging them to co-operate with stewards and officials at Liverpool so we can make a strong case for restoring our allocation for future United games at Anfield.

"The fans did almost everything asked of them that day and, as a result, we have a much-improved allocation for this important FA Cup tie.

"Please do everything you can to continue that good work and protect next season's allocation.

"FA Cup ties are tense affairs at the best of times. Add in the fact that Manchester United against Liverpool is the biggest game around and it becomes even more so.

"Your support is vital to the team, and down the years that has been especially true at Anfield. But please put the emphasis on getting us into the next round and giving the sort of support you are famous for -- positive, witty and loud." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent