The big news to come from manager Sir Alex Ferguson's pre-match press conference was that Nemanja Vidic would be the one to decide if he is fit enough to start against Liverpool on Saturday. The United captain was injured during the season opener at West Bromwich Albion but he has since returned from his injury lay-off when he was featured on Tuesday for Serbia in a Euro 2012 qualifier. He went the full 90 minutes in that match. Here is what the United boss had to say about Vidic's availability for the clash at Anfield:
"The big question mark is whether Vidic is ready. He has his first game for Serbia on Tuesday. It’s certainly a consideration because he’s such a great competitor. He came in yesterday and felt okay. But the Liverpool game is such an intense, stamina-draining game that you want everyone to be 100 per cent so it might be more down to how he feels himself."
Although Jonny Evans sat out the international break for Northern Ireland, he is expected to be available. Ferguson had nothing but praise for the 23-year-old center-back and his solid play while deputising:
"Jonny Evans’s form has been absolutely brilliant so I don’t have any real concerns about who I play because they’re all playing well."
Tom Cleverley continues to recover from an ankle injury but he is not quite fit enough to be considered for this typically intense tie. Rafael, who has been out for the entire season thus far with a shoulder injury, is now back in training. His twin brother Fabio, picked up a knock last week while on duty for Brazil, but all indications are that he is available. In fact, Ferguson indicated that there are no new injury concerns after the latest international break:
"All the players have come back from the internationals fit, which is always a blessing," Ferguson said. "Sometimes they don't, but fortunately this time they are all okay."
During the press conference, Ferguson praised Liverpool and this special rivalry. Here's a nice long quote in regard to that:
"I think they’re the two most successful clubs in England historically and also from an initial point of view when industry changed and they opened the ship canal. It had a lot to do with the history of both cities and both clubs. It’s an inherent situation. It’s been here since I came. To me, although things may change in the next two or three years with Manchester City and whether or not the derby can equal a United/Liverpool game because I’ve always considered that to be the game of the season in English football. At the moment, I think it remains that. It’s never going to change. I think both clubs need each other. The history both clubs have should be appreciated by both sets of fans and that’s sometimes annoying when I hear silly chants about Munich and Hillsborough, I don’t think it does either club any good at all because without each other it wouldn’t be the English league. If it came to a stage where fans were banned from each other’s ground, it wouldn’t be the same game so we need each other in that respect. The history of both clubs should be respected and hopefully we can see that because it’s fantastic for fans to see these games - the rivalry, great footballers, the intensity… to me it’s the game of the season."
The North West derby is always a highly anticipated affair and with a fever pitch. Perhaps this fixture at Anfield may be ramped up a bit more when considering a few factors: (a) United's 19th league title last season that surpassed Liverpool's 18 for the most in England's top-flight history. (b) the resurgence of Liverpool after Roy Hodgson was sacked and Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish was brought on to manage after a 11-year lay-off . The influx of players in recent transfer windows has helped as well. (c) United's recent struggles at Anfield -- which includes a 3-1 defeat last year in this same fixture.
It also appears that Liverpool have cut the away allocation of tickets for United supporters by about 1,000. Whether this is reaction to any sort of incident recently or due to the mere fact that United have surpassed Liverpool with 19 titles is up for anybody to decide on. This should be a fun lunchtime affair on Saturday for both groups of supporters. Or a gut-wrenching one.