Sir Alex Ferguson has accused Roberto Mancini of talking “nonsense” with his claim that the Premier League's lesser teams show fear against Manchester United while giving everything against Manchester City.
Ferguson, whose side's lead could be reduced to nine points if they lose at Stoke and West Ham over the next five days and City beat Wigan on Wednesday, said: “I think that's absolute nonsense, I really do. There's a lot of games I've watched this season, [involving] teams like City, and I've said to myself 'are they trying?' Of course they're trying. The English game is the most honest in the world and has been for many years. And also you've got 3,000 fans following you away. There's no way any team could come to Old Trafford and not do their best. He was maybe looking for a bit of self-sympathy.”
The United manager also said he believed that the post-season tours being undertaken by City and Chelsea next month, to the frustration of England manager Roy Hodgson who expects some players to convene for England duty on the day they complete a Transatlantic flight back, were born of financial need which doesn't afflict United. “I wouldn't ever do it. I was surprised to see they were playing two games at the end of May. But that can only be because of whatever financial gains they're getting out of it. They're the two richest clubs too. They need the money! I think players need to get their rest at the end of the season. Plus there are quite a few internationals at the beginning of June, so I don't know what kind of teams City and Chelsea are going to play in these games because I'm sure the international demand will be such that countries will want players available for them.”
Ferguson said that asking Wilfried Zaha, who teams up with United from this summer, to play for England in the European Under-21 Championship could stunt his development. “I always think, with young players, the best chance for them to develop physically is in the summer, when the sun comes out. It's an actual fact that the growth spurts of young people are always in the summer, the main spurt. But a lot of these international tournaments always seem to be in the summer. There's a great example of Michael Owen, who I always thought, if he'd got the proper development, would have been an absolute world-class player, but he had a youth tournament in 1997 in Malaysia for a month.”