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Premier League

Manchester City's mind games won't wash with us, says Ferguson


Sir Alex Ferguson has said that Manchester United are too experienced to be drawn into any mind games played by his opposite number at Manchester City, Roberto Mancini.

The United manager said Mancini's claim that the title race was "finished", even though the champions' defeat at Wigan had cut the gap to five points, would have no impact at Old Trafford. Ferguson appeared to be bemused by suggestions from the City manager that United had a "better spirit".

"It's not a problem for us, that. It's a nice compliment," he said, adding that he was not fooled by suggestions the title race was already over. "I think he picked the wrong time to say that. There are still five games to go and the twists and turns of the Premier League are fascinating.

"It's back on, the title race. They haven't been playing well, but while I didn't see the West Brom game, 4-0 is a good result at this time of the season.

"It didn't matter to us at all what he said. We all have opportunities to talk about it. If you want to use it as mind games, you can do that but it didn't mean anything to us. Do we have too much experience for these things? There is no doubt about that."

Mancini is probably not aware of the precise circumstances, but he is employing a tactic that Ferguson used to secure his first championship at Aberdeen in 1980. He announced then that the title was "Celtic's to throw away" and as a nine-point lead – in the days when two points were awarded for a win – was whittled down, throw it away was exactly what Celtic did.

It may just be coincidence but of the six matches United have lost in all competitions since the turn of the year, five have come when Paul Scholes has not started.

"We could have used him on Wednesday night," said Ferguson, who said Scholes would start tomorrow's game against Aston Villa. "But three games in seven days would have been a big ask for him. We thought that with Ryan Giggs' experience in the middle, doing without Scholesy would have been all right. But as it transpired, we didn't show."

United have confirmed they are one of a host of clubs interested in the Lille playmaker Eden Hazard. The 21-year-old Belgian has confirmed that this will be his last season in Ligue 1 and Lille have agreed that he can move in the summer, provided their asking price of €30m (£26m) is met.

The United coach Rene Meulensteen told the Dutch magazine Voetbal International: "The manager wants to see Hazard for himself, that's a sign he is an interesting player. We have talked a lot about him.

"Hazard is a special talent but it always takes a while. For example, we followed [the goalkeeper] David de Gea a long time before we got him. Ferguson wants to know the character of the player and, because of that, he is going to take a look himself. Hazard is 'the man' at Lille."