Sir Alex: If United lose the Manchester derby, it's curtains
22:36 GMT, 28 April 2012
Sir Alex Ferguson has given his players a stark warning that defeat at Manchester City will probably cost them the title.
Although City still have a tricky-looking fixture at Newcastle to play, Ferguson does not see Roberto Mancini’s men slipping up if they get their noses in front with two games to play.
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City will leapfrog United on goal difference if they win the biggest Manchester derby in living memory.
And Ferguson, already a 12-time Premier League champion, said: ‘If City win the game, I think they probably win the title.
‘We’d be strong favourites if we get a draw. We can win it from there, I’ve absolutely no doubt about that. It would be in our favour to be three points ahead with two games left.
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‘But we don’t talk about “not losing” matches at this club. This is a one-off game.
'It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the rest of the season. They’re undefeated at home, we have the best away record. It’s a special one.’
Ferguson is shouldering some of the blame for United’s uncharacteristic slip-up against Everton last weekend which has allowed City to move within three points of the leaders as they chase their first title since 1968.
Having lost at Wigan to end an eight-match winning streak, United squandered a 4-2 lead against Everton at Old Trafford last Sunday.
It has left Ferguson seriously considering recalls tomorrow for Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, both lightly used in recent weeks but cornerstones of the FA Cup win at the Etihad Stadium in January, which was revenge for the 6-1 drubbing City inflicted on United at Old Trafford earlier in the season.
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‘With the chances we had against Everton and the second-half performance, we should have won it comfortably,’ said Ferguson.
‘Maybe I should have brought on a couple of defenders anyway just to see it off. I mean, there were only seven minutes to go and we were winning 4-2.’
City’s aerial threat, with Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure, plus Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko on the bench, will add to Ferguson’s temptation to include a couple of extra six-footers.
The three previous Manchester derbies this season, including the Community Shield, have yielded 17 goals. But given the importance of this occasion, Ferguson is expecting a tighter affair.
‘I imagine it would be more cagey. It
depends when the first goal is scored, if it’s early then maybe there
will be a few goals again,’ he said.
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‘It’s difficult to say how City will approach it. Their crowd will be up for it. But that’s not unusual— we’ve been to Anfield, the Emirates, places like that. The atmosphere is just the same.
‘I think we have enough experience, pace, good footballers, determination. I think we’ll be all right in that respect. A game of that nature can be decided by anything.’
With so much hype around Manchester ahead of this derby, Ferguson sent his team to south Wales to prepare in relative calm.
‘I thought that City would be our big challenge this year,’ he added, ‘particularly because their early-season programme allowed them to get off to a flyer.
‘They got a good start to the season and it projected them forward.
‘It’s always said during a season that we’re set for the best title chase of all time but it always comes down to two.’