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

News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness