Ferguson wary of paying City penalty

Sir Alex Ferguson has claimed there would be a House of Commons inquiry if Manchester United got as many penalties as Manchester City.

Tevez from the spot...

The number of penalties City get at the Etihad Stadium has been the subject of debate for the past two years.

Since the start of 2010-11, they have been awarded 21 spot-kicks.

In the past three games on home soil alone they have got four, two against Aston Villa and one each in the draws with Real Madrid and Everton.

And, ahead of his own side's visit to City on Sunday, Ferguson has cheekily raised the issue.

"The number of penalty kicks they get - 21 in the last year or something like that," said Ferguson.

"If we got that number of penalty kicks there'd be an inquiry in the House of Commons. There'd be a protest."

Bizarrely though, United have had more than City this season, only to miss four of them.

It piles the pressure on referee Martin Atkinson ahead of this weekend's game, which Ferguson accepts has risen markedly in profile since the days when he claimed Liverpool were United's true rivals.

"Liverpool and United games over the last 25 years have been unbelievable," said Ferguson.

"They've always been the most important games.

"It's shifted because at this moment Liverpool aren't challenging for the league like City are.

"City are our biggest threat and we're their biggest threat, so that's changed.

"Their fortunes changed the minute Sheikh Mansour took over.

"We know the minute that happened it was going to be a different ball game altogether.

"But, as we have in the past, we have to accept their challenge like we did when Chelsea came along and when Arsenal overtook Liverpool in the early 90s.

"We have to do it again."

Ferguson's team presently have a three-point advantage over City, just as they did ahead of the corresponding fixture last term.

However, as they did then, the Blues are ahead on goal difference, meaning victory on Sunday will take the home side top.

"The gap doesn't mean a great deal because there's such a long way to go until the end of the season," said Ferguson.

"But the derbies had a big impact last season, particularly that 6-1 defeat, on goal difference.

"It turned us right around and that's what cost us."

And Ferguson is wary about the advantage City may eventually get from their unexpectedly early exit from Europe, having missed out on the Europa League this season with their defeat to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.

"It's obviously an advantage to City," he said.

"Fewer games mean fewer chances of injuries and they get a full week to prepare for games now.

"They do have a big squad - probably a bigger squad than most teams - and they need to keep everyone happy.

"That, in itself, is a bit of an encumbrance in terms of the manager picking the right teams and keeping everyone involved.

"And I do believe they'd rather have European football. That's the biggest disappointment for them."

Ferguson is still to discover whether Tom Cleverley will be fit after limping out of Wednesday's Champions League defeat to Cluj with a calf injury.

Antonio Valencia and Nani have already been ruled out, whilst faint hopes that both Shinji Kagawa and skipper Nemanja Vidic could be involved appear to have faded.

"I thought Kagawa may have done enough to make the bench on Wednesday but no, he's well short," said Ferguson.

"I don't think he'll be available until the Sunderland game next week.

"Nemanja Vidic is certainly doing well in training. It suits his own confidence to play but I think the game on Sunday is a bit soon for him.

"I think he'll also be ready for Sunderland."

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