A file photo shows Liverpool players and fans observing a minute's silence to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. -Photo by AFP

MANCHESTER: Sir Alex Ferguson has repeated his criticism of supporters who sang anti-Liverpool chants during Manchester United's victory over Wigan and has appealed for the club's fans to act in a more dignified manner at Anfield on Sunday.

United face their arch rivals this weekend in the first game to be staged at Anfield since the Independent Hillsborough Panel cleared Liverpool supporters of any wrong doing in the 1989 FA Cup semi-final tragedy which left 96 of them dead after crushing on the terraces.

The Panel exposed an alleged cover up by authorities and Ferguson used his pre-match press briefing on Friday to make an appeal for both sets of supporters to “draw a line in the sand” in their long-running and bitter animosity.

Yet a section of United supporters used Saturday's home game against Wigan to chant anti-Liverpool slogans, including one which featured the refrain “You're always the victims, it's never your fault.”

United supporters' groups - and Ferguson - claimed that specific song was a reference to the Liverpool forward Luis Suarez and his defence of accusations that he racially abused United's Patrice Evra last season.

But, whatever the fine points of his supporters' repertoire, Ferguson wants them to behave with dignity at Anfield on Sunday.

“I didn't hear it,” said Ferguson. “But everyone seemed to hear it from the directors' box and David Gill was disappointed.

“The chant is a new chant and only started after the Suarez situation. But in view of the climate and, after speaking on Friday and asking our supporters to adhere to the policy we wanted to adopt - we're completely in support of Liverpool Football Club at this moment in time, we understand what those families must have felt when they got that report - it was disappointing to hear that.

“It's a minority. In any society there is a minority which wants to be heard. That's the difficulty nowadays.

“As a club, we totally support Liverpool and the situation they are in. Sunday will be an emotional day and we will support them in any way we can.”

Meanwhile, Ferguson has confessed that he does not know which of his two goalkeepers - Anders Lindegaard or David de Gea - is currently first choice at the club.

Neither has made the position their own on merit and each has turned in some sub-par displays over the past 12 months, leaving Ferguson to juggle the position.

“The most important thing I am trying to achieve is to give them both experience of the English game,” said Ferguson on the eve of his team's opening Champions League group game with Galatasary. “Both are young and don't have the experience of (Edwin) van der Sar or (Peter) Schmeichel.

“Therefore, alternating them is not a big problem for me. They are both equally very good goalkeepers.

“That's been the policy I've been adopting last season and this season, although de Gea played most of the time last year, particularly when Anders was injured in March. I'm comfortable with that.”

Ferguson is less comfortable with the depth he has in defence, a position that has been something of a curse for the United manager in recent seasons due to long-term injuries. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are both currently sidelined for a number of weeks and Ferguson admits recent history in that position is a concern.

“The key for us is keeping our defenders fit,” said Ferguson. “We have had a really rough ride with defenders being injured the last two or three years.

“At the moment, with Smalling and Jones out long term, I'm down to three centre-backs - (Nemanja) Vidic, (Rio) Ferdinand and (Jonny) Evans. If I was guaranteed two of those being fit for the rest of the season, I would take that gladly right now.”

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