Sir Alex Ferguson has refused to discuss Manchester United’s 6-1 Old Trafford defeat to Manchester City last season as he prepares for the same fixture, declaring only that he is determined not to let Roberto Mancini’s side “derail” the Premier League leaders’ title campaign when they meet on Monday.
Ferguson poured scorn on his questioner when he was asked yesterday whether the memory of last season’s result – which he described at the time as “our worst ever day, the worst result in my history. Ever.” – might be a source of motivation.
“Do you think I’m going to mention that?” Ferguson said, having paused and fixed his questioner with a stare when the subject came up midway through his weekly press conference. “Do you think..? Jesus Christ.”
Asked if extracting motivation from such a defeat was something he was used to trying, he continued: “I can talk about our form this season. I will concentrate on that.” He shook his head and the subject was closed.
The landscape of that October 2011 fixture – United’s heaviest home defeat in 84 years which sent City five points clear at the top of the Premier League – and the current 15-point lead Ferguson’s side enjoy over their neighbours at the top could hardly be more pronounced, and the Scot declared that United’s consistency was “there for all to see. I expect us to perform really well on Monday.”
Ferguson, who expressed hope that Wayne Rooney and Rafael da Silva would be fit as they put groin strains behind them to train yesterday, also said he wanted Robin van Persie to take heed of his own example as a striker, in attempting to emerge from a dry spell of nine games without a goal.
“I didn’t have any dry spells!” Ferguson initially joked when the barren period, which included a good opportunity spurned against Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea on Sunday, cropped up. He continued: “I had a spell at the start of the season, one year. I was bothered by a knee injury, sure enough, but I didn’t score until October. I still ended up with 30 goals, you know. So you go through that period where you don’t lose faith in yourself and your belief. My dad used to say: ‘Make sure you batter that ball when you get near it. Don’t tap it.’
“That’s what I always say to strikers: make sure you hit it. Robin doesn’t need a rest, that’s for sure. He’s a strong lad with a great physique. The goals will come. All strikers have little dry spells – you always hope it ends quickly. It’s just part of being a striker.”
Ferguson dismissed the notion that United’s season is considered by some to be flat, despite their probable title, or that the club had received insufficient credit for their record number of 25 wins from 30.
“We’ve got eight games left so it’s a bit late to get the credit now. I don’t think it bothers me too much,” the manager said.
The manager hoped Nemanja Vidic, the captain, and Jonny Evans would begin training today or on Saturday morning. Though both look less likely to face Mancini’s side, Ferguson said they had time on their side.