Dalglish: Focus away from "sideshow"

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is keen for the "sideshow" which has developed Saturday's game against Manchester United to remain in the background.

Shielding their eyes from the sun...

While an FA Cup fourth-round tie between England's two most decorated clubs who share such a bitter rivalry would be enough to crank up the tension, a new element has been introduced in recent months.

The two sets of supporters have taken opposite stances in the wake of Reds striker Luis Suarez's eight-match suspension after being found guilty of racially abusing United's Patrice Evra when the two sides met at Anfield in October.

That incident stoked the simmering feud which exists between groups of rival fans and, with the case being played out in the full glare of the media - many of whom criticised Liverpool for their defence of Suarez - the issue has rarely been out of the headlines in three months.

The Uruguay international still has two matches of his ban to serve so will not be on the pitch on Saturday - although he is likely to be in the directors' box - but it is anticipated Evra will play.

But Dalglish insisted the focus had to be on football and everyone involved, from the pitch to the stands, had to behave.

"We want to concentrate on going out and playing football and any other sideshow is purely that, it is just a sideshow," the Scot said.

"Everyone has a responsibility to uphold the names of their respective club and anyone who reports or comments on the game also has the responsibility to make sure they are not trying to incite trouble.

"But it is not only the fans who have to behave themselves; we have a responsibility to behave - but that is the case every time.

"I am sure everyone will be determined to make sure what's done has been done and whatever your grievance is keep it to yourself and let's get on with the game."

Much has been done to lessen the potential for problems at Anfield on Saturday.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson sent a letter to ticket holders appealing for them to work with the stewards in the stadium after previous encounters had led to their allocation being cut because of persistent standing in gangways.

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre and captain Steven Gerrard have both stressed the focus has to be on football and Merseyside Police earlier this week issued their own guidance, insisting they would be: "Firm, fair and friendly but take action where necessary against those individuals who may seek to cause problems or misbehave."

Dalglish's call for a composed approach does not mean he expects a watered-down version of what the fiercest rivalry in English football.

"The significance of a match between Liverpool and Manchester United is always of great importance and this one will be no different," the 60-year-old added.

"It would be a huge disappointment on both sides if either team did not compete as well as they can.

"They are highly-charged matches but that is because players take great pride in the clubs they represent.

"We have to go on the pitch and compete. You cannot take away the competitive edge from a football match and we won't be taking away ours.

"But we have an opportunity to play football and that is all they (the players) want to do."

Dalglish, who previously won the FA Cup in 1986 and 1989 in his first spell as Reds boss, hopes the boost of overcoming Manchester City in the Carling Cup in midweek to reach their first final for five years will help.

The crackling atmosphere under the Anfield floodlights evoked memories of former glories and the Scot would be delighted to reproduce that on Saturday.

"We are looking forward to a fantastic match; we had unbelievable support from our people on Wednesday night and I am sure we will get the same again," he said.

"We would be delighted if we could replicate what happened on Wednesday but we know what we are going to get from our supporters - they are 100% behind us.

"Had it not been for their support we might not be going to Wembley.

"They know their importance and we respect that importance. I am sure people can look forward to a fantastic spectacle."



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