No room for sentiment - Hodgson
Predecessor Rafael Benitez's relationship with Ferguson was far from cordial but, prior to that, Gerard Houllier was well respected by the United boss and it is the same with Hodgson. Hodgson and Ferguson face each other for the first time as managers of arch rivals at Old Trafford on Sunday, but the Englishman does not expect hostilities to be resumed. However, he is not averse to annoying the man he considers the greatest British manager of his generation by getting one over the Scot in terms of the result. "I certainly regard him as a friend. Whether he regards me as a friend you'd have to ask him," said the 62-year-old, who revealed he telephoned Ferguson when he took over at Liverpool. "I spoke to him in a jocular way, I asked him the question 'Does it mean now I've taken the Liverpool job that we don't speak to each other?' - he didn't put the phone down but he made some cutting remark. "The friendship hasn't been affected by me becoming Liverpool manager. "I'm sure he will offer me a glass of wine when I go to the game on Sunday and I'll offer him one when he comes here. "But during the match there is no room for sentiment and I'll be hoping desperately things go our way and he'll be hoping things go his way." After the phoney war of words between Benitez and Ferguson in recent years, Hodgson believes attention can now be focused solely on what happens on the pitch. "The crowd turn up to watch the 22 actors on the field, not Alex or myself," he added. "But I think Sir Alex is the greatest of my generation, certainly within English football. "It is always difficult to compare with foreign managers and what they have done in other countries but for me, in my working lifetime as a coach, I regard him as the greatest British manager." Hodgson is relishing the prospect of being involved in the clash between the north-west rivals, which ranks among one of biggest fixtures in world football. "I've been involved in some big derbies in my career and you know how much they mean to the fans," said the former Inter Milan coach. "It compares with Inter v Juventus. The Milan derby was a big occasion but the derby d'Italia was the real killer one, as it were. "I didn't like losing in those games, which I did quite often. I did poorly so it would be nice to change that. "This game certainly compares with that in terms of the interest it generates not only in the two cities but in the rest of the country. "It transcends the north-western rivalry and becomes even global because both clubs are so big outside of England."