Ferguson backs battle-hardened United to topple City pretenders

Manager believes his side's big-game experience can be decisive factor in today's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley

It was the story of Sir Alex Ferguson's days running a pub on the Govan Road in Glasgow which most absorbed the Manchester City chief executive, Garry Cook, when the two men found themselves seated together at a dinner, a few years back.

The freedom of Manchester was being bestowed upon Sir Bobby Charlton at the town hall that night and the United manager's tales of community and domestic strife he had found himself policing in the mid-Seventies, at the pub he renamed "Fergie's", told Cook this was a man who had lived life in the raw. You just can't buy that kind of experience.

Cook might have expected his club to have come rather closer to Manchester supremacy by now than the solitary win in eight matches since entering Abu Dhabi ownership. Ferguson's experience is the principal reason why they have not and it was an asset the Scot last night declared could send his players beyond their 10th FA Cup semi-final of his United career. It was "possible" that City's desperation to win their first FA Cup semi-final in 20 years may play into United's hands, said Ferguson. But United, he confidently declared, have been here before. They would not freeze.

"I know my own players and, obviously, they have been used to big game situations many times, so we don't have to conquer that," Ferguson said. "[The atmosphere] is very difficult to block out, simply because sometimes the occasion overrides everything else. And Wembley is an occasion stadium. When you go there it's for an important reason, and that can affect some players. I don't think there's any doubt about that. It's a fact. But you just have to prepare the players properly, make sure the information you give them is fine. Their own temperament, and their own beliefs, then come into it, of course. I don't see anything more to it than that."

Experience is certainly an asset which Ferguson will believe gives him an edge on Roberto Mancini, a manager 23 years his junior. United have won eight of those 10 semi-finals under him, while Mancini's only competitive visit to Wembley was in the losing Sampdoria side in the 1992 European Cup final against Barcelona, in the old stadium. The respective fortunes of the clubs in their treatment rooms have also favoured United hugely, as they are missing only Darren Fletcher and the unfortunate Owen Hargreaves. City – without Carlos Tevez – may at least welcome back Micah Richards. Wayne Rooney travelled south with United yesterday. Tevez was not present when City alighted from their train at Watford and there were doubts from the club last night that the City captain would be at Wembley.

And while United can take comfort from the momentum of a seven-game winning run since their league defeat at Anfield, Mancini has spent the week employing any strategy available to dispel the memory of Monday's 3-0 defeat at the same place. Tactics have includ ed taking all the blame himself and not screening DVDs of the match. "We are ready for this," said Ferguson. "The confidence is high and we are playing well. We are fighting for every corner, which is a great attitude to have at this time of the season, so we look forward to it."

Edwin van der Sar became the latest United player to cast aspersions on City, yesterday. "Maybe for them, the game is not played with the heart quite so much and more with their quality players. We have plenty [of quality players]," said the goalkeeper. But Ferguson was careful to avoid any sniping.

He does not feel the headlines associated with that reflect well on United and he dismissed Paul Scholes' claim of Thursday that City would not be United's genuine rivals until they have taken a trophy. "They'll always be our rivals. It's a derby game, it's always been that way with City and that will never change," the manager said.

While the weight of expectation of a long-awaited trophy is for Mancini to bear, Ferguson finally fielded a question about the treble without rejecting the idea. "We are playing well and as I've said we have the great determination of our players that has given us a good chance," he said.

Ferguson is likely to start with Javier Hernandez again, alongside Dimitar Berbatov as Wayne Rooney serves out his two-game ban. Mancini is more likely to go with one striker in Carlos Tevez's absence. Edin Dzeko, rather than Mario Balotelli, appears the front-runner, with David Silva floating in from the left and Adam Johnson on the right. City are also likely to deploy three holding midfielders again, probably Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong operating with Yaya Touré. Richards' selection ahead of Pablo Zabaleta, who missed the Liverpool game having only two days' training after nearly three weeks' compassionate leave, will depend on how sharp he has looked these past three days. Mancini likes the attacking option he offers and will select him if he can.

Ferguson, who may also prefer Chris Smalling to Rio Ferdinand, concluded his press conference by fielding a reminder that this was the season when Rooney had questioned the quality of United's squad. "I don't think he actually really meant that," Ferguson replied. "I think he was prompted. He probably thought he could make me angry." The equanimity with which Ferguson entered the weekend yesterday suggested that nothing possibly could.

Manchester City vs Manchester United

Lee Dixon’s verdict: Roberto Mancini’s side have been in patchy form and will miss Carlos Tevez, but that all goes out the window in a derby. They will be up for this Wembley showpiece against their neighbours and could edge it.

Kick-off: Today, 5.15pm (ITV1)

Prediction: Draw, City to win on pens.

Police have advised supporters travelling to Wembley that the M1 from junctions 1-4 will be shut due to a fire yesterday

United's route to the treble

Today: FA Cup semi-final Manchester City (Wembley)

Tues: Premier League - Newcastle Utd (a)

23 April: Premier League - Everton (h)

26 April: Champions League semi-final - Schalke (a)

1 May Premier League - Arsenal (a)

4 May CL semi-final - Schalke (h)

8 May Premier League - Chelsea (h)

14 May Premier League - Blackburn (a) Or FA Cup final (Wembley)*

22 May Premier League - Blackpool (h)

28 May Champions League Final*

*Depending on semi-final results

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?