Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has responded to Alex Ferguson’s penalty jibe by branding Ashley Young a diver.
When informed of Ferguson’s declaration that if Manchester United had profited from as many penalties as City it would prompt questions in the House of Commons, Mancini recalled Young’s antics last season.
The winger was condemned for the manner he went to ground to win spot-kicks against QPR and Aston Villa on successive weekends last April, with even Ferguson accepting Young was treading a fine line.
Mancini said: “I remember very well last year, when Young (gesturing) swimming in the… I think four or five times in the last 10 games, and then (Ferguson) didn’t say anything, but this can happen.”
It was the Italian’s riposte to what he believed was a deliberate attempt at heightening tensions ahead of tomorrow’s derby at the Etihad Stadium.
“Probably,” the Italian said. “Fergie is clever for this. I think in the last 15 years there have been some penalties for them. Not a lot, but two or three in the last 15 years.”
Ferguson did seem to have referee Martin Atkinson in his line of fire with his initial comments – the basis for which was somewhat flimsy.
For, while City have been awarded 21 penalties since the start of the 2010-11 campaign – 20 at home – United have been given just as many.
Ferguson was either unaware of this, or ignored it, when he launched his stinging attack on the back of four City penalties in the Blues’ last three home games.
“The number of penalty kicks they get – 21 in the last year or something like that,” Ferguson said. “If we got that number of penalty kicks there’d be an inquiry in the House of Commons. There’d be a protest.”
With Ferguson predicting a safety-first approach from both sides tomorrow, any penalty award could turn out to be decisive.
It is quite possibly the reason why he wants to try to prevent City profiting from any additional advantage.
For, after last season’s City double, United are staring down the barrel of their third straight league derby defeat for the first time in over four decades and are facing a Blues outfit who boast a formidable record on home soil, where they are unbeaten in Premier League combat for almost two years.
“Two years is a long time,” Ferguson said.