Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson warns his players against inciting Leeds fans

Sir Alex Ferguson

Warning: Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson will warn his Manchester United players to behave themselves against Leeds or risk sparking FA Cup chaos at Old Trafford tomorrow.

A potentially explosive third-round tie sees United face their old rivals for the first time in almost six years amid fears that a history of violence between the two sets of fans could lead to more trouble.

And Ferguson will remind his team of their responsibility not to fuel any crowd problems, saying: ‘I don’t have to spell out what Leeds have meant to Manchester United over the years. 

‘It’s a fantastic, feisty occasion every time we have met. It always carried a degree of hostility which meant we had to tell the players to behave themselves on the pitch because there was no need to add to the problems off it.

'Leeds are bringing 8,000 fans and it is going to be a busy day for the police.’

The number of away fans heading across the Pennines is four times bigger than the last time Leeds played at Old Trafford in February 2004 when they were limited to just 1,900 tickets after the clubs took joint action to try to curb violence.

The generous allocation for tomorrow’s game has caused widespread surprise and concern but Leeds will follow police advice and make only 2,400 tickets available to United fans if there is a replay.

Greater Manchester Police will mount its biggest operation since 100,000 Rangers fans descended on the city for the UEFA Cup Final in 2008.

Although the match commander, Superintendent John Graves, has spoken ahead of the game to ease safety fears, it has been classed as high-risk Category C, with police expecting known hooligan groups from both clubs to be out in force.

A city centre operation is being launched in addition to the usual match-day policing around Old Trafford, and there will be a heavy presence from the specialist tactical aid squads. 


Unsavoury: Police want to avoid scenes like this when Leeds travel to Manchester United

Most bars and pubs in Manchester are expected to close, and police also hope the early 1pm kick-off will help. Ferguson will not underestimate a club he expects to be see back in the Premier League sooner rather than later, and has promised to put out a strong side against the League One leaders.

He added: ‘Simon Grayson has done a fantastic job. He is a Leeds boy himself, former player and some people have targets in life and I think he has reached his managing Leeds.

‘He has instilled great motivation in his team and they’ve not let him down. ‘They look to be an absolute certainty for the Championship next year. The motivation that is coming from the manager means they have a great chance of being in the Premier League in the next couple of years.’

Grayson echoed the feelings among his club’s supporters, saying: ‘Personally, I can’t wait. This just takes us back to where this club was not so long ago, and could be again in the future.

‘Most of my players won’t have been to Old Trafford before, so the incentive for them to do well is huge. It will give them a taste of what playing in front of 70,000 is like, and will hopefully bring out the best in them.’

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