Fergie backs United to sink City after Wolves loss
Manchester United aim to bounce back from a shock 2-1 defeat at Wolves when they face arch rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday in a match Ferguson describes as being "decisive" in the title race.sports Updated: Feb 11, 2011 19:01 IST
Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United's failure to set a new unbeaten record run will refocus their minds on winning the Premier League title.
United aim to bounce back from a shock 2-1 defeat at Wolves when they face arch rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday in a match Ferguson describes as being "decisive" in the title race.
The loss at Wolves ended their bid to overhaul a 30-game unbeaten club record in the league, but United boss Ferguson is looking on the bright side as there is no longer any pressure on his players to stay undefeated.
Ferguson, whose side are four points clear of second placed Arsenal and five ahead of City, believes the setback could actually work in his team's favour for the remainder of the season.
"It's not pressure, but it's always hanging over you. But now the focus has changed from that to winning the league again," Ferguson said on Friday.
"That's the name of the game, and I've said that all along. This unbeaten run should not interfere with the fact that our focus is on winning the league.
"In normal circumstances, and it's proved to be the case again, you do lose games.
"In the run-in to the end of the season teams will drop points. It's a fact, whoever gets the most consistent form will win the league.
"It's a derby game and with the changing nature it could be decisive for both teams, so that makes it an interesting game for us.
"You never get easy games in derbies but we're going in with good confidence.
"Hopefully our home form stacks up because I've been very pleased with that."
United have suffered a blow in the build up to the visit of their cross-city rivals with England defender Rio Ferdinand failing to recover from a calf strain.
With Jonny Evans also sidelined, rookie centre-back Chris Smalling will partner Nemanja Vidic at the heart of United's defence.
Although Smalling has little experience of such a big match, Ferguson has full faith in the young English defender.
"Smalling will play and I'm sure he'll do well," Ferguson said. "He has been excellent.
"He got a bit of tightness in his back last week so that's why I used Jonny Evans, but we've been very pleased with Chris.
"He's played a few games now and he's been outstanding. He may lack a bit of big-game experience but, in terms of the experience he has got, he's used it well."
A victory for United would inflict a potentially fatal blow to City's title hopes in one of the most eagerly awaited derbies for decades.
Ferguson added: "We've had the internationals this week but the focus on the game will start up now. Maybe it's not a bad thing.
"It doesn't really matter about the hype as far as the clubs are concerned, we've got to perform on the pitch.
"I've got a good idea what their team might be but I'm not privy to everything. They will have a good idea about our team because there are no hidden secrets."
Meanwhile, City boss Roberto Mancini believes his side are closing the gap on their bitter rivals, even though they have yet to match United's winning mentality.
"Our team is a good team, we have improved a lot in six months," Mancini said.
"Maybe United has a winning mentality because they have won for a long time.
"When you have a team who wins trophies for 20 years, your mentality is very strong.
"This is the difference but when we start to win trophies, we can change.
"I think for us it is very important to win something this season - with the Europa League, FA Cup, Premier League.
"In the city, there are two teams, there is one team that wins everything, there is another team that for a long time doesn't win but this can change."