London – Sir Alex Ferguson fears Manchester United will gift Sunday’s derby to neighbours City if they defend poorly again.
The United manager will play an under-strength team at Old Trafford in a Champions League dead rubber against FC Cluj of Romania tonight as he begins the build-up to the crucial match at the Etihad Stadium.
Win this weekend and United will stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League to six points, but after losing twice in the league to City last season – including a 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford – Ferguson is worried Roberto Mancini’s team will capitalise on weaknesses shown against lesser opposition. This season, United have conceded 32 goals in 22 games and kept just four clean sheets.
Ferguson said last night: “ think we’re getting punished for every ball that goes in the box but we should still be defending far better. If we perform like that on Sunday then God knows what’s going to happen to us. When you look at the side City could put out with Balotelli, Dzeko ... really tall players, it’s going to be a big challenge.”
Ferguson confirmed that Wayne Rooney will start on Wednesday but claimed captain Nemanja Vidic, who trained on Tuesday, is not yet ready after knee trouble.
“I don’t think he’ll play against Cluj,” said Ferguson. “He feels he needs another few days’ training. If he doesn’t play in this there’s absolutely no chance of him playing in the derby.”
United have already won their Champions League group. On Sunday, meanwhile, Ferguson may be happy with a draw.
He added: “I wonder if there will be a little bit of caution from both clubs. Roberto Mancini and I will have to think deeply about our tactics and there may well be an element of playing safe.” – Daily Mail