MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, March 5, 2011 (AFP) - Sir Alex Ferguson has told his Manchester United players that they must show the character of champions and bounce back against Liverpool on Sunday.
The Premier League leaders have endured a rotten few days after throwing away the lead to lose 2-1 at Chelsea before Ferguson was charged on Thursday by the Football Association for improper conduct.
|Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (C) gestures as he argues with Referee Martin Atkinson (R) at the final whistle during the match against Chelsea on March 1, 2011. Chelsea won 2-1. AFP|
It is hardly the ideal preparation for one of United's biggest games of the season as they look to surpass Liverpool in terms of domestic title success.
Currently locked with Liverpool on the most number of English top-flight titles won - 18 apiece - United would dearly love to take a huge step towards overtaking their bitter rivals by winning at Anfield on Sunday.
United start the weekend four points clear of nearest rivals Arsenal although Arsene Wenger's side will reduce the gap to a just single point should they defeat Sunderland on Saturday.
"At this club, you have to recover," said Ferguson, who is demanding an immediate response following the events at Chelsea, where United finished with 10 men after Nemanja Vidic was sent off in the dying stages.
"That result has put us back but we have to recover for Sunday's game against Liverpool."
Midfielder Michael Carrick, who has just penned a new three-year contract, echoed his manager's thoughts.
"We have to forget it and move on," said Carrick. "It's a huge game on Sunday and we'll be ready for it.
"We can move on quickly. We have to. We're used to doing that and we're usually good at it. Hopefully we can bounce back again."
With Vidic suspended and Rio Ferdinand (calf) and Jonny Evans (ankle) both injured, Ferguson has something of a defensive crisis on his hands.
The United manager has confirmed that West Brown will partner Chris Smalling in the centre of defence while Patrice Evra failed to finish the game at Chelsea because of a knee problem.
"I don't think it is very serious, and anyway I'm a warrior," said the French left-back.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish suffered defeat at the hands of United in his first game back in charge of the club two months ago, Ryan Giggs' second minute penalty eliminating the Merseyside club from the FA Cup.
Since then Dalglish has restored a winning mentality at Anfield although his side go into this game on the back of a 3-1 reverse at West Ham.
"Every game's very important for this football club but Liverpool versus Manchester United is a game that a lot of people look forward to," said Dalglish, who could include £35 million signing Andy Carroll if the striker can prove he has recovered from a thigh injury which has delayed his debut.
"But you get the same rewards for it regarding points, although maybe a bit more credit and you might get a few more inches in the newspaper columns if you get a positive result.
"Everybody plays football to play at the highest level they possibly can and the games between Liverpool and Manchester United are what you term as the highest category of game you can get."