Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson piles penalty pressure on referee ahead of Manchester City clash

By Simon Rice

Sir Alex Ferguson has added another edge to Sunday's Manchester derby by claiming that if Manchester United were awarded as many penalties as Manchester City there would be a House of Commons inquiry.

City have been awarded 21 spot-kicks at the Etihad since the start of 2010/11, raising a debate over whether they are winning them too easily. In the last three home games alone they have won four - two against Aston Villa, and one each against Real Madrid and Everton.

Discussing the number of spot-kicks awarded at today's press conference ahead of Sunday's derby, Ferguson said questions would be raised if the same situation had occurred at Old Trafford.

"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."

Ferguson's comments are sure to put pressure on Sunday's referee Martin Atkinson should a decision need to be made during the match.

Ironically, United have actually been awarded more penalties this season, although have missed four of them. The latest came in the 4-3 victory over Reading, although Wayne Rooney buried that particular spot-kick.

Yesterday, Ryan Giggs said Liverpool remained United's biggest rivals, although Ferguson concedes that City's new found wealth and challenge for trophies has changed the landscape of football in England.

"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 is waiting 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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