Man City really got under Fergie's skin this week - and I have the banning order to prove it

Manchester City have really got under Sir Alex Ferguson’s skin considering they are a “small club with a small mentality.”

You would have thought that the Manchester United manager would have more to worry about than neighbours who haven’t won anything for 34 years.

Like the obvious decline of his squad. Or the debts that are slowly squeezing the life out of his club in the long term and currently limiting his own options in the transfer market.

To Ferguson’s credit he has still managed to slap City back into line twice this season.

If Michael Owen’s injury-time goal back in September wasn’t bad enough for City fans, the sight of Wayne Rooney doing the same thing on Wednesday night in the Carling Cup semi-final was the kind of thing that nightmares are made of.

But over the last couple of weeks it has become clear that Fergie has developed something of an obsession with the little club from Eastlands.

In fact, at times it has seemed like he’s losing the plot completely.

Last Friday, I was one of a group of Sunday newspaper journalists banned by United from attending future press conferences for daring to use some quotes from the United manager in which he had criticised Carlos Tevez.

According to Ferguson, Tevez should have been sent off for a tackle on Wes Brown in the first leg of the semi-final clash with City.

Later he told a member of his staff to instruct us not to use the quotes.

It wasn’t because he thought his words would inflame an already volatile situation but that he was worried he would be giving the Argentine striker another stick to beat him with.

The Sunday Mirror – along with four other newspapers – ran the quotes because we felt we were right to do so.

If our motive had been to land Ferguson in trouble with the FA as they attempted to take the sting out of the return tie, we would have also reported some less than complimentary remarks he made about referee Mike Dean, which we were happy to ignore when he made it clear at the time they were off the record.

Now banning orders aren’t such a rarity at Old Trafford. But five in one day is, I believe, a record.

Sky Sports News were next to get the red card on the eve of the second leg, apparently because they had the temerity to show Gary Neville giving Tevez the finger.

Maybe Sky should now ask United to send back their share of the £1.78billion they pay the Premier League – if the Glazers haven’t already spent it.

Yet perhaps the clearest indication that City are really starting to play on Ferguson’s mind was his team selection for the Carling Cup games.

Playing the kids was never going to be an option given how City have approached the competition.

They would have been hammered over two legs and would have perhaps never recovered.

But Ferguson’s desperation to have Rio Ferdinand in his team spoke volumes given that he knew the England defender had been caught bang to rights elbowing Hull’s Craig Fagan last weekend and would have a suspension extended if United launched an appeal.

The fact that he was willing to sacrifice Ferdinand for Sunday’s trip to Arsenal and three other Premier League games was the biggest complement he could have paid City.

It was the epitome of a small mentality, to be honest.

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