Sir Alex Ferguson's dilemma over which goalkeeper should be his No 1 was revealed last night when he snapped at a TV presenter, accusing her of "looking for stupid little things" by asking if £18.5m David de Gea might be dropped for Sunday's match against Chelsea.
Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard, who has made no secret of his belief that he has a call on being first-choice, pulled off two fine late saves to preserve Manchester United's 1-1 Champions League draw at Benfica. The dilemma created prompted Ferguson to lose his tempter with the ITV presenter Kelly Cates, the daughter of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish. "David de Gea will play on Sunday. That was the understanding we had before the game. I don't know why you ask these questions," Ferguson told Cates.
His response to Cates came 23 years after Ferguson complained of managers leaving Anfield "choking on their own vomit", prompting Dalglish to reply reporters would get more sense out of his then six-week-old daughter Lauren than from Ferguson. Cates – then Kelly Dalglish – was a Setanta pitch side reporter in 2008 when she told Ferguson she wanted to ask him about a Christmas party that led to the arrest of Jonny Evans over rape allegations. Ferguson declined.
On a night when United and Manchester City both rescued 1-1 draws after falling behind – City through a 74th-minute Aleksandar Kolarov goal in a captivating Champions League debut at home to Napoli – Lindegaard reasserted that he wants to be No 1. Asked about challenging for the first-team spot, the 27-year-old said: "What answer do you expect to that question? I've said a thousand times before I'm not here to pick my nose."
Ferguson later reiterated his faith in De Gea. "I was very impressed with Anders, but we've got two great goalkeepers actually, in Anders and David," he said. "We were always getting to the moment when we were going to share that. David will play against Chelsea on Sunday and possibly Anders will play against Leeds United on Tuesday. There are opportunities to spread that load, because coming over to the English game [for De Gea], it's such a competitive intense league for a young goalkeeper. There will come a time when I need to give him a break."
Lindegaard was not selected for United's win at Bolton last Saturday, despite Ferguson apparently giving serious thought to protecting De Gea from the aerial threat which punished him at West Bromwich Albion on the opening weekend of the season. "It was very amusing, great fun and that's the most important part of why you play football – fun," said Lindegaard about facing Benfica. "There's always a bit of nerves and if there isn't then it's not that enjoyable. It makes me feel alive. I'm satisfied with my performance, just a bit sad that I didn't save the first goal."
United's 1-1 draw in Lisbon was secured by a goal which takes Ryan Giggs ahead of Denis Law in the list of United goalscorers in Europe, with 39. It was a strike of "terrific quality," Ferguson said.
The City manager, Roberto Mancini, blamed his team's "nervousness" on their Champions League debut against Napoli last night in which they had to come from a goal behind to seize a draw through Kolarov's second half free-kick.
With Bayern Munich seizing the initiative with a 2-0 win over Villarreal in Spain, Group A looks daunting for City. They fell behind to Edinson Cavani's goal on 69 minutes after a mistake by Gareth Barry. Asked whether his team had been naive at times, Mancini said: "Yes, absolutely, But I'm happy with our performance. In the first half we played well."
He added: "I think before the game we were so nervous because it was the first [Champions League match for the club]. All the players wanted to win this game and they all wanted to score. If we play easy, simple, we can play better. But it was the first game, I enjoyed it, and against Naples that was a good result.
"I never said that we are like Barça. I think we need to improve like a team, we have fantastic players. Every game in the Champions League is different and difficult, for us it's important to play simple football."
On the goal City conceded, Mancini said: "A team like us can't concede a goal like this. When we lost that ball we didn't have any midfielders in front of the defenders and for 10 minutes we left a lot of space for the Napoli players."