Mancini takes on Fergie in battle of Manchester
ROBERTO MANCINI has fired the first shot in his battle with Sir Alex Ferguson by promising to rip down the famous banner at Old Trafford mocking Manchester City’s lack of success.
Mancini’s bold statement is a clear signal of intent from the new City boss that he is determined to take advantage of Manchester United’s problems this season and tackle Ferguson head-on.
Asked about the banner – a large number in black and white draped across the Stretford End which is updated every season to taunt City over the last time they won a major competition nearly 34 years ago – Mancini vowed to deliver a trophy and knock United out of the Carling Cup. The last time City won a trophy was in the 1976 League Cup.
The first leg of the semifinal, scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed to January 19 due to heavy snowfalls.
“When we go to Old Trafford we will take that banner down,” said Mancini. “This is the last year because we will win. I am well aware how long it is since City last won a trophy and this season we have a great opportunity to put that right.”
Trailing Chelsea in the title race after five Premier League defeats so far this season, United suffered another blow when they crashed out of the FA Cup to Leeds.
Mancini, meanwhile, has overseen three straight wins – and three clean sheets – since taking over from Mark Hughes last month.
The former Inter Milan boss has already claimed City are capable of not only securing a top-four place this season but also snatching United’s Premier League crown as well.
“Big clubs have to think of the big picture, winning trophies and being involved in the big competitions. Derbies are just one or two games a season. We must think of trophies. It’s important we have that mentality,” he said.
“For me, it’s important we get through January. If we do very well this month then I think the future is very good for us because we’ve got players coming back from injury,” Mancini said. “It’s possible we could be in the top four if we have a good month.’
Mancini will have to wait for his chance to face Ferguson after the first leg at Eastlands was postponed, but his comments about the banner are reminiscent of the row that erupted last summer when City celebrated signing Carlos Tevez by putting up a city-centre billboard of the for mer United striker with the words “Welcome to Manchester”.
It brought an angry response from Ferguson who branded City a “small club with a small mentality”.
The rivalry was fuelled by Fergu- son’s claims that Tevez was not worth his £25m transfer fee, and a fiercely controversial derby at Old Trafford in September that United won with an injury-time goal by Michael Owen.
Mancini, however, believes Tevez was worth every penny and admitted United are bound to miss the Argentina striker and his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.
“For me, Carlos is one of the top players in the world,” he added. Ferguson had welcomed Mancini’s appointment – City’s 14th new manager since the Scot took over at United – by saying he looked forward to still being in charge when that number reached 20.
Like Hughes before him, Mancini was careful not to become embroiled in a public war of words with Ferguson, insisting he was sure his counterpart was only joking.
“I hope that I stay here in this seat for many times. But it’s normal. It’s meant as a joke what he said, but now I hope I stay here for a long time,” Mancini said.
“Has Sir Alex contacted me since I was appointed? No but he doesn’t have my number.”
Mancini smiled when it was pointed out that he has a winning record against Ferguson after beating United as a player and a manager with Lazio in the 1999 Super Cup and Inter in a friendly at Old Trafford in the summer of 2007.
“I have great respect for him. Sir Alex has won many trophies and is the most important manager in the world,” he added. “But we want to beat him, this is normal.” – Daily Mail