Sir Alex Ferguson has called on Manchester United and Liverpool supporters to put an end to the chanting that has marred previous fixtures as he prepares for a match he maintains is still bigger than the Manchester derby.
United face Manchester City next weekend but Ferguson believes the game at Anfield is still the most significant fixture in English football, and he appealed to the two sets of supporters to show respect by putting an end to the songs that are sporadically heard about the Munich and Hillsborough disasters.
"We are talking about the two most successful clubs in England historically, and a rivalry that goes back to how industry changed when they opened the Manchester Ship Canal," the United manager said.
"That affected the history of both cities and it [the rivalry] has been there since I came to Manchester. Things may change in the next two or three years with Manchester City, but I have always considered Manchester United versus Liverpool to be the game of the season in English football and at the moment it remains that.
"Both clubs need each other and the history should be appreciated by both sets of fans. Sometimes, when I hear silly chants about Munich or Hillsborough, I don't think it does either club any good because without each other it wouldn't be the English league. If it came to a stage when fans were banned from each other's ground it wouldn't be the same game. The respect for both clubs' histories should be adhered to. The intensity and rivalry, great footballers, it is the game of the season."
Ferguson reiterated his point when he was asked to compare it to El Clásico in Spain. "Are you saying it's not as good as Barcelona-Real Madrid?" he asked. "You know the difference? Barcelona is one end of the country, Madrid the other, and the fans don't travel. The only rivalry you could compare the Liverpool game to is Rangers-Celtic."
United, according to Ferguson, have not always dealt well with "the Anfield factor" and he admitted they had been "outfought" in this fixture for the past couple of seasons. "Their [Liverpool's] support has been fantastic, it's got them going and they've fought for every ball, and although we've done well for parts of the game we've made crucial mistakes.
"In my time we have had nine players sent off [at Anfield], which is unusual for Manchester United. That is all down to the atmosphere that can be created at Anfield. Last season, when we were playing really well in the game, we made two really bad errors to give goals away. Two seasons ago, we had a player sent off. These are issues, along with temperament, that we have to deal with."
The player in question was Nemanja Vidic, who is now available again after recovering from the calf injury he suffered on the opening weekend of the season. Ferguson, however, is mindful that Vidic played for Serbia on Tuesday and is weighing up whether to start him on the basis "the Liverpool game is such a tense, stamina-draining occasion that you want everyone to be 100%".
Ferguson would not answer questions about Wayne Rooney's frame of mind – "it was worth a try, but I'm not getting into that" – after his sending-off for England against Montenegro last Friday and the subsequent three-match ban to rule him out of the group stages of next summer's European Championship.
He will warn his players, however, to stay calm despite the crowd's hostilities. "The atmosphere is very difficult for everyone. It's not an easy place but we can handle that."
Ferguson has accused the referee, Andre Marriner, of not handling that atmosphere in the past, but he would not return to the subject. "I'm not getting into that. We're not allowed to discuss referees. Martin Jol [the Fulham manager] has got five years in prison apparently for praising the referee."