Paul Scholes has claimed Manchester United hold a mental edge over their neighbours City and that their FA Cup opponents’ big spending has only spurred United to want to beat them more.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s semi-final at Wembley, Scholes said United’s superior belief is what has helped them maintain a strong record over City despite the millions injected in recent years by their wealthy Arab owners.
Referring to the fact City have only beaten United once in eight attempts under the Abu Dhabi United Group’s ownership, Scholes said: “They will be pissed off about that. Even then, that game was a first leg, with us having another game to make up for it.
“We have made a habit of nicking games in the last minute. I’ve done it, Michael Owen’s done it, Wayne [Rooney] did it last season and, again, with his unbelievable goal in the league this season. That’s the difference between the two teams. We have a belief that we can beat anybody, but if City have that, I’m not too sure.”
And Scholes, who has been scoring goals against City since they were much less of a threat to United’s trophy-winning aspirations, believes that United enter today’s derbies with a new vigour based on a desire to put their rivals in their place.
“[The money has] helped us a bit,” he said. “It has spurred us on when we have played them. It has made us concentrate a little bit more than we normally would against them.”
But despite that, Scholes refuses to consider City to be a “main rival” to United until they end their trophy drought. “When they are fourth or fifth, or wherever they are in the league, I don’t think they can be classed as a main rival. Our main rivals are obviously Arsenal and Chelsea. I think City are just a rival because of where they are [geographically], and Liverpool the same.”
Scholes is in confident mood ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster. He praised the form of his team-mates in their 3-1 aggregate defeat of Chelsea in their Champions League quarter-final and stated that City will be much less of a threat without captain and top-scorer Carlos Tevez, who has a hamstring injury.
He said: “Tevez is definitely their talisman. As much as Wayne is a top player and has come back into unbelievable form in recent weeks, without Wayne, we can bring in our top scorer, Dimitar Berbatov. What can City do? I’m not so sure. Dzeko hasn’t adapted yet, but it takes time.”
So confident is Scholes that he even dropped the ‘T’ word: “I never really thought about the Treble until this week, but we’re in the semi-finals in Europe now, the semi-final of the FA Cup and we’re seven points clear in the league. But just as you start to think about a Treble, it can easily be taken away by one game on Saturday and we’re desperate not to lose to City.”
Scholes speculated that Saturday’s clash could be his last derby, although he insisted a decision on whether he will play on after this season will wait until the summer.