Ferguson not concerned by Manchester City 'threat'

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Sir Alex Ferguson still does not view Manchester City as a major threat despite the Blues' new-found status as the richest club in the world.

Ferguson takes United across town on Sunday for the first derby-day clash since City came under the control of an Abu Dhabi-backed consortium that is threatening to spend limitless amounts of money on the Eastlands outfit.

The deadline-day arrival of Robinho for a British record £32.5m was a significant statement of intent, with the promise of more star names to come in the January transfer window.

As yet, the cash has not turned City into a winning team.

Despite last week's victory over Arsenal, the Blues remain in the bottom half of the table, just three points above the drop zone.

Such is the concentrated nature of the Premier League just now that a win for Hughes' side this weekend, which would be City's third on the trot in derby duels, would see them suddenly on the brink of a European berth.

However, there will be no title challenge and even given Arsenal's poor recent form, City are unlikely to mount a push for Champions League football.

Which is why Ferguson's sights remain concentrated on more established rivals Chelsea and Liverpool.

"Where are they at the moment?" replied Ferguson when asked if he viewed City in a different light.

"Our threats are Chelsea and Liverpool, who are sitting above us.

"The money is for the future. Mark Hughes must decide how it will shape his team. At this moment in time that is not the case."

Nevertheless, the presence of Chelsea at the top flight summit is a reminder of what can be achieved through a combination of ambition and exceptionally deep pockets.

When Ferguson first arrived at Old Trafford, the Londoners were not even a consistent presence in what used to be known as the First Division. Their transformation in the past five years has been incredible.

And, if it had not been for John Terry's untimely slip as he strode up to take what would have been the match-winning penalty in Moscow last May it would have been Chelsea, not United, celebrating a famous Champions League win.

"We experienced this with Chelsea," said Ferguson.

"They spent a lot of money. It had an immediate impact because they won the title for the next two years. In their case it has worked. You can look at other examples and it hasn't."

As Ferguson was busy trying to seal a deal to sign Dimitar Berbatov for a club record £30.75million in the summer, the Scot was not fully aware how much City were trying to shake up the football world as the minutes ticked down on deadline day.

In the end, they 'only' got Robinho. But it has presented a danger Ferguson is sure his players will not shy away from.

"I heard about it all pretty late in the day," he recalled.

"They made a bid for five or six players. The whole thing was a surprise because everyone expected Robinho to join Chelsea.

"But this club is good at responding to challenges.

"We had to accept it and do something about it with Chelsea otherwise we would have been second forever more.

"Thankfully, we have won the last two leagues."

Not that Ferguson expects too many star names to join City mid-season. Traditionally, January is a difficult time to sign players of proven quality and, no matter how much Hughes has to spend, he can see no difference this time around.

"It is easier said than done," said Ferguson.

"January is not the best time to buy players, although I suppose it depends how City do in Europe."