Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is hopeful that the race row surrounding Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez is now firmly in the past as the Red Devils welcome Liverpool to Old Trafford on Sunday.
Suarez received a £40,000 fine and eight-match ban for racially abusing Evra during a match in October 2011, while the Uruguayan star snubbed a proposed handshake when the two sides met four months later in February 2012.
However, the two players have since played against each other and did exchange pleasantries earlier this season at Anfield, giving Sir Alex reason to be optimistic that it will not be an issue again on Sunday.
Ferguson told reporters: “There will always be a certain build-up to a Manchester United and Liverpool games.
“That’s simply because of the history between the two clubs, the two most successful in the country – it brings its own agenda in terms of profile and pre-match discussion.
“Last year it was unfortunate with the Suarez behaviour. But I think hopefully it’s behind both clubs now and we can just look forward to the game.”
The 71-year-old also spoke about a rollercoaster 2012, a year fraught with disappointments from a United perspective – particularly the final day of the season when the Red Devils lost the title to neighbours Manchester City on goal difference.
He continued: “There were a lot of ups and downs [in 2012]. It was disappointing. Firstly in European football we were knocked out the previous December and so we had to do without that.
“We were knocked out in the second game of the FA Cup – very unluckily – at Liverpool. We should have won that game. That left us with the league and then we lost that on the last day of the season on goal difference. So it was very, very frustrating.
“Since then we’ve done what we said we’d do. We qualified from the group stage of the Champions League. I thought we were unlucky to be knocked out of the League Cup by Chelsea, with the last kick of the ball, after we’d played so well.
“The league so far has gone well and we’re in a good position. We just now need to make sure we kick on, keep our concentration and keep playing our football the way we are.”
Despite strolling through their Champions League group and finishing in top spot with ease, United were awarded with arguably the toughest draw possible in the first knockout round against Real Madrid
However, Ferguson believes they will have a great chance of winning the competition if they can get past Jose Mourinho’s Spanish champions.
He continued: “No doubt about that at all. You needn’t fear anyone if you win that. I look at the competition this year and there are four teams we have to pay attention to.
“Obviously we’re drawn against one of them. If we get by that, then the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Barcelona will be there – Dortmund have been fantastic.”