Ferguson laughs off City threat

United manager hikes tensions ahead of tonight's derby, accusing rivals of putting cheap point-scoring above trophies
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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson suggested on the eve of another hugely resonant derby match that Manchester City's fans would rather see silverware than hear boasts from the club's marketing department about their team and appeared to deliver a dig at the club's chief executive, Garry Cook, for "getting carried away".

Ferguson, who suggested the Carlos Tevez poster which so infuriated him last season will have "embarrassed" fans, ridiculed the supporter who had "Manchester City – Champions League winners 2011" tattooed on his right shoulder at the start of last season and placed City's directors in the same category as him. "Unfortunately supporters are just as bad as directors," Ferguson said. "I think a lot of supporters would probably prefer to see a trophy paraded before they start getting carried away [and] screaming from the rooftops".

While a cool Roberto Mancini, who was dealt a blow when Mario Balotelli's three-game ban was upheld yesterday, refused to enter into the pre-match skirmishes, declared Ferguson "the best manager in the world", the United manager could not resist another dig at the Tevez "Welcome to Manchester" poster which still rankles. "It was probably some advertising gimmick somewhere along the line, but I don't think they can be proud of it," he said. "I don't see how they thought that would get more points off us as opposed to playing against us on a football pitch."

Ferguson did not refer by name to Cook, with whom he is acquainted having spent a cordial evening seated beside him at Manchester Town Hall two years ago, but the chief executive's suggestion in New York after City's 2-1 Carling Cup semi-final first-leg win over United in January that City were on course to overtake United and become "without doubt the biggest and best football club in the world" has not been lost on the opposing manager.

Cook has kept a lower profile since the incident and the owners have been keen to ensure he has more staff around him to guard against outsiders recording him at what he though was a private event. Despite this the club has still been making an impact on their city rivals. Wayne Rooney was mesmerised this summer by the near £200,000-a-week salary commanded by City's Yaya Touré and by flirting with departure across Manchester has secured himself £30,000-a-week more than United were initially willing to pay. Both Ferguson and Mancini dismissed the suggestion that City were interested in Rooney and Ferguson was predictably irritated by the question. Of City's interest in the 25-year-old, he exclaimed: "That's them. Don't ask me. Christ."

The closest Mancini got to any level of pre-match provocation was his suggestion that City's current view of United is that "we understand that we can always beat them now." That certainly seems to be the case this evening, with United missing Rooney, Ryan Giggs and almost certainly Nani, their most creative player. Ferguson is also unsure who will have recovered from the virus which laid him low last week and forced him to send his players home yesterday. Dimitar Berbatov has been unwell. For City, Emmanuel Adebayor reported a calf strain on Monday, but may be fit to play.

City are privately indignant about the Football Association's decision to refuse to reduce Balotelli's three-match ban for his straight red card at West Bromwich to one match, particularly since Tom Huddlestone has escaped a ban for what seemed a more clear-cut offence – an apparent stamp on Bolton's Johan Elmander. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan's long-awaited first league triumph over United at the stadium Ferguson likes to call the "Temple of Doom" would more than compensate, though Ferguson was caustic about suggestions that City were a challenge to be headed off. "Excuse me, Chelsea won the league last season," Ferguson said. "That's our challenge. We have to chase Chelsea and if you don't recognise who won the league the year before then you're very foolish."

Of City's spending, he said: "If people have money to spend and want to spend it, they'll spend it. It's just a fact of life; it's availability. The only difference is that City is an untapped well at the moment." Ferguson, who did not entirely dismiss the idea that Rooney may return from his enforced break at the Nike base in Portland, Oregon, fit to play for England in next week's friendly against France, has reluctantly accepted the departure of his reserve-team manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Solskjaer was named yesterday as the new manager of Molde, the Norwegian top-flight side from which United signed him in 1996.

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