Ferguson dignified ahead of reunion

Sir Alex Ferguson is determined Manchester United will retain their dignity as Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez meet for the first time since the racism row between the pair.

Football News: Patrice Evra

Suarez has now returned to action after serving an eight-match ban for the comments he made to Evra at Anfield in October.

However, Liverpool's actions over the past few months have not been well received.

As recently as Monday, Kenny Dalglish insisted Suarez's lengthy punishment was unjust, a surprising claim given the Reds chief had avoided any inflammatory statements prior to the recent FA Cup tie between the two clubs.

Ferguson is determined not to rise to the bait.

"They've said plenty, haven't they?" said Ferguson.

"We've kept our dignity throughout. We've kept our counsel. That is the right thing to do in these situations.

"We'll keep it that way, too and just concentrate on the game."

For the third weekend running, the subject of a pre-match handshake is dominating debate.

Two weeks ago, it was cancelled to avoid embarrassment between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand.

Terry's absence through injury meant Rio Ferdinand avoided having to make a difficult decision at Chelsea.

This time around it could be that Suarez and Evra do not come into contact as the Liverpool man is not certain to start.

It is an issue Ferguson addressed seven days ago, when he insisted it was "only a handshake".

And it appears the Scot has given the matter no further thought.

"I've not even thought about that," he said.

"I'm not bothered about it. It's not been an issue."

United have been given a pre-match boost with Ryan Giggs agreeing a one-year contract extension that will take him into a 22nd season.

The 38-year-old will make his 899th club appearance if he plays some part on Saturday and Ferguson is delighted to have him around.

"Ryan is a marvellous player," said Ferguson.

"He epitomises all my teams here at United; he has constantly re-invented himself, adapted to the changing nature of the game and retained that desire and hunger for success.

"In every training session and match, he is the example for others to follow."

At the other end of the experience scale, Ferguson is pondering whether to relaunch Tom Cleverley into the Old Trafford cauldron.

Unusually for a young player, the United boss has been unstinting in his praise of Cleverley, even though the midfielder has just five Premier League games under his belt.

Out since October with an ankle problem, Cleverley was due to be involved in a reserve-team game at Chelsea on Monday, only for those plans to be scuppered by the weather.

"We were disappointed with that but Tom has trained very well and he'll be involved tomorrow [Saturday]," said Ferguson.

It represents the third of four demanding matches in a six-game period Ferguson always felt would hold the key to United's title challenge.

So far, a win at Arsenal and a draw at Chelsea represents a decent return.

However, three points are a must in what Ferguson still regards as the biggest game of the season.

"It's always going to be a big game," he said.

"That's not changed since I've been down here and it's just the same tomorrow [Saturday].

"We're chasing the league and they're chasing a Champions League place. It's important for both clubs.

"Our form's as good as it's ever been. We're playing really good football and the concentration levels are good."

Recent injury problems are easing still further with the likely availability of England defender Chris Smalling.

Phil Jones is still missing with an ankle problem, although it is expected he will have recovered in time for Thursday's Europa League trip to Ajax.



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