Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has defended Wayne Rooney over his declaration that he "hates" Liverpool.
The comments were made on MUTV in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday night's Champions League win over Inter Milan and were eventually removed from United's official website on Thursday afternoon for fear of inflaming passions ahead of Saturday's north-west showdown at Old Trafford.
"Hate is an easy word to say, easier than dislike. Maybe it is not the right word," said Ferguson. "But Wayne has had plenty of stick from Liverpool fans over the years, so it is understandable."
As an Everton supporter, a former Everton player and a member of Manchester United's Champions League-winning team, Rooney has taken plenty of abuse from Liverpool fans down the years.
Nothing has happened on either side to suggest the antipathy has reduced at all.
"He supported Everton as a kid and the rivalry between them and Liverpool is pretty ferocious now. Since then he has come to Manchester United and he wants to win," he added. "It is nothing out of the ordinary really."
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