MANCHESTER, January 18 – Sir Alex Ferguson has tried to up the pressure on Manchester City by claiming their League Cup semi-final against Manchester United matters more to them than to his team.United travel to Eastlands for the weather-delayed first leg on Tuesday with their local rivals desperate to end their long wait for silverware.
City have not appeared in the final of a major tournament since 1981 and have not lifted a trophy since winning the League Cup in 1976.
By contrast Ferguson has presided over the most successful period in United’s history with 11 league titles, two European Cups and five FA Cups among the trophies the Scot has brought to Old Trafford since joining from Aberdeen 24 years ago.
However, expectations at City have multiplied since they were taken over by the wealthy Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008 and they hope to break into the Champions League places this season at the very least.
"A semi-final against United when they haven’t been in a final for so long is the biggest motivation City could have so far this season," Ferguson said.
"So it’s a bigger, more important game for them than us," he added. "It’s a game for the fans and their emotions."
Ferguson has already confirmed the likes of Darron Gibson and Rafael and Fabio da Silva are likely to feature against Roberto Mancini’s team.
And while he is keen to give some players a break, he insists he is not taking the tie lightly and intends to be in a strong position going into the home leg.
"You don’t underestimate these things and I’ll pay particular attention to it. Once you’re in a semi-final, you want to be in the final. We want to be in a healthy position back at Old Trafford for the second leg," he said.
Ferguson is likely to be without Dimitar Berbatov, who may need surgery on his knee problem, and the game is likely to come too soon for Rio Ferdinand to recover from his calf injury.
Mancini goes into this match on the back of his first defeat as City manager, following his team’s 2-0 league loss away to Everton on Saturday.
But City midfielder Nigel de Jong hopes striker Carlos Tevez’s desire to prove Ferguson wrong after being released by United and then signed by their Manchester rivals at the end of last season will work in the home team’s favour.
The Argentina forward has scored 15 goals for City so far this season and de Jong said: "Every player needs to be loved. I don’t know what Carlos’s situation was at Old Trafford. I’m just glad he’s here."
United and City shared seven goals in a Manchester derby thriller in September with reigning league champions United triumphing 4-3 thanks only to Michael Owen’s stoppage-time winner.
"People still talk about what happened at Old Trafford in the league, but that game is in the past, we don’t want to keep looking back," de Jong said.
"This is a new game. We want to look to the future," the Dutchman added.
Instead de Jong said he thought United’s recent shock FA Cup exit at the hands of third-tier Leeds United would be of more relevance to the outcome of the tie.
"I don’t know whether their manager is going to play his full-strength team or his reserves after their FA Cup misery!," de Jong said. "It’s up to Ferguson, he’s the manager and he knows his squad the best.
"I don’t think it is a sign of disrespect if he doesn’t pick his strongest team. He made it clear at the beginning of the Carling (League) Cup that he would try to rest players because other competitions were more important.
"But it is a semi-final and they are playing a derby against their biggest rivals," he added.
"It’s a semi-final, one of the biggest games for City in a few years, so we have to do our best to reach the final, whoever it is we play against."
Aston Villa appear in control of the other semi-final after a 1-0 first-leg win away to Blackburn Rovers.