Football - City penalties irritate Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson has launched a cheeky Manchester United derby-day counter-offensive by questioning the number of penalties Manchester City get.

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City have profited from four in their previous three home games, including a debatable one against Everton last weekend that allowed them to preserve a near two-year unbeaten record in the Premier League on home soil.

It is part of an overall tally of 21 City have been awarded since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, prompting Ferguson's jibe.

"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."

It had evidently escaped Ferguson's attention that United have been awarded just as many in exactly the same period of time, presumably because his side have missed a greater percentage, four this term alone.

Nevertheless, Ferguson's comment underlines the irritation that exists between the two Manchester clubs, whom the United boss is convinced will battle it out for the Premier League title, as they did last season. Ferguson said: "It will be close again between the two sides.

"We have that gap over Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham and it will be difficult to think the two of us will collapse. I think it will be between the two of us."

It merely heightens a rivalry that has always existed, but not in its present form since the late 1960s when the pair were last scrapping it out for major honours.

"Liverpool and United games over the last 25 years have been unbelievable," he said. "They've always been the most important games. But it's shifted because Liverpool aren't challenging for the league like City are. City are our biggest threat and we're their biggest threat.

"Their fortunes changed when Sheikh Mansour took over. We knew the minute that happened it was going to be a different ball game altogether. But we have to accept their challenge like we did when Chelsea came along and when Arsenal overtook Liverpool in the early 90s."

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