Alex Ferguson hopes Manchester United’s 4-3 derby victory on Sunday will silence “noisy neighbour” Manchester City.
What was meant as a jibe by Ferguson, though, City manager Mark Hughes took as a sign of the club’s growing stature since being bought a year ago by an Abu Dhabi Sheikh.
City rallied three times on Sunday until Michael Owen produced a winner for United six minutes into stoppage-time.
So Hughes’ side left Old Trafford with nothing after a week of bluster from the newly emboldened blue half of Manchester, which has lavished more than $300 million on new players in 12 months.
“There has been a lot of expectation on Manchester City and with the spending they have done they have to win something,” said Ferguson, who has been in charge at United since 1986. “It’s unusual for us to accept that they’re the top dogs in terms of media attention but you know, sometimes you have a noisy neighbour and have to live with it.
“You can’t do anything about them if they keep on making noise but what we can do, as we showed today, is you can get on with your life, put your television on and turn it up a bit louder. As far as the players are concerned, they showed their playing power and that’s the best answer of all.”
Hughes dismissed Ferguson’s assertion that United - chasing a fourth straight title - could have won the 152nd derby 6-0 had it not been for defensive and goalkeeping calamities.
“They are certainly aware of us now. Maybe in recent seasons it was less a game of significance,” Hughes said. “To suggest that they were six or seven goals better than us was completely wrong.”
Wayne Rooney had fired United in front inside two minutes, but goalkeeper Ben Foster’s blunder gifted Gareth Barry an equaliser. A pair of Darren Fletcher’s headers were cancelled out by Craig Bellamy, but there was no time for a response after Owen’s cool stoppage-time finish when, according to Hughes, the game should already have ended.
Hughes seized on Ferguson’s euphoria following Owen’s match-winner as evidence of his former manager’s anxiety and fears about the threat City will pose backed by Sheikh Mansour’s wealth.
“They did seem quite excitable at the end of the game,” Hughes said. “It was reminiscent of (former assistant manager) Brian Kidd and Sir Alex in days gone by and I saw (captain) Gary Neville running on like a lunatic as well.
“So it showed how much it meant to them. It’s something we’ll take out of the game. We knew we could come here and compete against the United.”
But City, which went into the match on four successive victories, still lost for the first time this season.
“We know we can have an excellent season and as the season progresses be in a position where we can challenge and maybe do something special at the club,” Hughes said. “That’s still our thought and we’re still on track to do that. We have showed with the events of today we can do that.
“I think people have acknowledged that we can be a threat and it’s about maintaining that and sustaining the success in the future. It’s still early days. We have come a long way in a short space of time.”
But it would take years to match United’s roll of honour. City won the last of its two English championships in 1968. Manchester United, virtually a global brand name, collected No. 18 in May.