DCSIMG

Alex Ferguson flags up City’s penalty count ahead of Manchester derby

  • by ALAN ROBSON
 

Sir Alex Ferguson indulged himself in some trademark pre-match mind games as he launched a cheeky Manchester United derby-day counter-offensive by questioning the number of penalties Manchester City get . . . even though United are their equals in spot-kicks awarded.

Sir Alex Ferguson indulged himself in some trademark pre-match mind games as he launched a cheeky Manchester United derby-day counter-offensive by questioning the number of penalties Manchester City get . . . even though United are their equals in spot-kicks awarded.

City have profited from four in their previous three home games, including a debatable one against Everton last weekend that allowed them to preserve a near two-year unbeaten record in the Premier League on home soil. It is part of an overall tally of 21 City have been awarded since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, prompting Ferguson’s jibe. “The number of penalty kicks they get, 21 in the last year or something like that,” said Ferguson. “If we got that number of penalty kicks there’d be an inquiry in the House of Commons. There’d be a protest.”

It had evidently escaped Ferguson’s attention that United have been awarded just as many in exactly the same period of time, presumably because his side have missed a greater percentage, four this term alone.

Nevertheless, Ferguson’s comment underlines the irritation between the two Manchester clubs, whom the United manager is convinced will battle it out for the Premier League title, as they did last season.

“It will be close again between the two sides,” said Ferguson. “We have that gap over Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham and it will be difficult to think the two of us will collapse. I think it will be between the two of us.”

It heightens a rivalry that has always existed, but not in its present form since the late 1960s when the pair were last scrapping it out for major honours.

“Liverpool and United games over the last 25 years have been unbelievable,” he said. “They’ve always been the most important games. But it’s shifted because Liverpool aren’t challenging for the league like City are. City are our biggest threat and we’re their biggest threat.

“Their fortunes changed when Sheikh Mansour took over. We knew the minute that happened it was going to be a different ball game altogether. But we have to accept their challenge like we did when Chelsea came along and when Arsenal overtook 
Liverpool in the early ’90s.”

The problem for Ferguson is that over the past couple of years, his side have tended to end up second best. That was the case two seasons ago, when City won the FA Cup semi-final on their way to ending their 35-year trophy drought. And United were the victims again in May when Sergio Aguero ended City’s 44-year wait for the championship with his never-to-be-forgotten injury-time strike against QPR.

Ferguson’s team presently have a three-point advantage over City, just as they did ahead of the corresponding fixture last term. However, as they did then, the Blues are ahead on goal difference, meaning victory tomorrow will take the home side top.

“The gap doesn’t mean a great deal because there’s such a long way to go until the end of the season,” said Ferguson. “But the derbies had a big impact last season, particularly that 6-1 defeat, on goal difference.”

Mancini, meanwhile, has labelled arch-rivals United as title favourites heading into the derby.

Mancini regularly compared his team unfavourably to United – and even wrote off their title chances at one point – only for them to pip their neighbours to the crown last season. He denies that was a tactic to motivate his players and insists City will 
be the underdogs at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow.

Mancini said: “We can’t change the history. We are here (for) only two years, playing together, and they are used to playing this game for the title race for 20 years. This is normal when you play against a team that won everything in the last 15 years. You can’t change this in two or three years and you need more time. For this reason, they have a small advantage.”

When asked specifically about this season’s title battle, Mancini said: “In this moment United are favourites but the season is long. They were a strong team and (then) they bought (Robin) Van Persie and (Shinji) Kagawa. They put another player that scores 
25 goals into the squad.”

Van Persie has added considerably to United’s attacking armoury since his £27million summer move from Arsenal. The Dutchman, who hit 37 goals last season, has already struck 
13 times for United.

City, who hope to have playmaker David Silva back after a hamstring injury, go into the derby on the back oftheir exit from European competition. However, Mancini quipped: “Ferguson won his first trophy after seven years and his first Champions League after 14 years. I have another 12 years to win a Champions League!”

 

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