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The Scot feels that the West Brom manager was onto a loser when he took over at Anfield but insists the Englishman's credibility cannot be called into question

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson feels that Roy Hodgson's troubled tenure in the Liverpool job was purely down to "bad timing".

As the 70-year-old and his men prepare to entertain Hodgson's in-form West Bromwich Albion side on Sunday, the Scot has sympathy for his opposite number and his difficult spell on Merseyside.

"Roy [Hodgson] couldn't win at Anfield," Ferguson told reporters.

"There's no question about that. Sometimes the timing is bad for certain jobs and that was bad timing for him. But you cannot dispute his credibility, his ability and the career he has had."

Ferguson, meanwhile, is keen for his players to focus solely on their remaining 11 Premier League games, as they hope to overhaul Manchester City and retain their crown, despite a midweek Europa League defeat by Athletic Bilbao.

"The players know the challenge they face," he declared. "They have a great opportunity after the result last week against Spurs. It is an opportunity to kick on in the league and hopefully we'll manage to do that.

"West Bromwich are in a bit of good form just now. They've won their last three, scored five against Wolves and beat Chelsea last weekend. We respect that.

"Roy Hodgson always has his teams well-organised and it will be the same on Sunday. We are at home and we expect to win our home games."

Manchester United are 12/1 with Bet365 to record a 4-0 victory over West Brom.

The defeat against Athletic means that United have won just once at home in Europe this season, an unconvincing 2-0 win over Romanian side Otelul Galati.

It leaves their Europa League hopes hanging by a thread and, to compound their misery, defender Chris Smalling's stitches was taken off during the match, leaving him a doubt for the domestic encounter against the Baggies.

Rio Ferdinand is set to return to the fold but Ferguson revealed that his selection decisions hinge on whether Smalling recovers in time to play.

"It was a very sapping game against Bilbao, a very good, end-to-end European game," said the Scot.

"We'll have Paul Scholes, Nani and Rio Ferdinand available [for West Brom] and we'll need to make a few changes to get the freshness back in. We'll make one or two changes.

"It depends on Chris Smalling. His stitches came open in the first half. We thought we'd patched them up at half-time but they came open again. It's a possibility. I will maybe gamble with a couple on Sunday for Thursday's game."

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