Sir Alex Ferguson will show shattered Liverpool no mercy in Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie at Old Trafford.
The cup clash should have been the highlight of the round but Liverpool’s plight, coupled with the pressure on manager Roy Hodgson, gives it almost a David versus Goliath appearance.
The Reds lost 3-1 to Blackburn on Wednesday, adding further strain to Hodgson’s tenure at Anfield.
Now Ferguson, who is aiming to win the trophy for the sixth time, has issued an early challenge to arch-rivals Liverpool, promising to send out a strong Manchester United side.
With memories of last season’s third round 1-0 home defeat by Leeds United still remembered by the Old Trafford faithful, Ferguson has no intention of making life easy for the Merseyside giants.
“It was a bad result last season against Leeds, especially considering the rivalry between the two clubs,” Ferguson told the club’s website.
“In hindsight I could have picked a stronger team. I won’t be making that mistake this time.”
Having left Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Edwin van der Sar of his starting line-up to face Stoke, Ferguson has experienced options at his disposal.
He also has a former Liverpool player in Michael Owen, who was on target for the Reds when they last travelled to Old Trafford for an FA Cup tie in 1999.
That game was remarkable for the fact Liverpool led for 85 minutes, yet contrived to lose thanks to late goals from Dwight Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“I don’t forget Michael Owen’s goal,” recalled Ferguson.
“It was a header and Gary Neville was caught napping at the back post. But we battered them after that.”
Ferguson is keen to win the FA Cup again.
“It is an important trophy so there is a strong desire to get our hands on it,” said the United boss.
“We haven’t won it since 2004, or been to Wembley in the final since we lost to Chelsea in 2007.”
“So we definitely want to get back there. And we want to win it.”
Struggling Liverpool will have their work cut out to contain the home side after suffering their seventh defeat in 10 away league games matches this season in the 3-1 loss at Blackburn.
Still shell-shocked after the loss, Hodgson is desperate to raise spirits ahead of Sunday’s cup-tie.
“In football you do what you always do, you keep going as best you can,” Hodgson said.
“You have to try to get over the result and make certain the next result is a better one that hopefully wipes away the memory. That’s all you can do.”
“Football throws up good and bad moments. When it throws up a bad moment no amount of talking is going to change anything. Only the next performance will change things.”
One bright spot in what is looming as a one-sided cup clash is that Liverpool’s Portugal international midfielder Raul Meireles may return after recovering from an ankle injury.
United’s Premiership rivals Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City round out Sunday’s action, with all three clubs looking to rebound from disappointing mid-week results.
Tottenham will be hoping for an easier run against League One outfit Charlton Athletic than they experienced against Everton, who stunned Spurs 2-1 at Goodison Park.
Chelsea’s dramatic form slide continued on Wednesday with a 1-0 loss to Wolverhampton, but the Blues will welcome Championship strugglers Ipswich Town to Stamford Bridge in the hopes of resurrecting their best form.
Manchester City, fresh from a dour 0-0 draw against Arsenal, travel to Leicester City.