United silence noisy neighbours - for now

MANCHESTER - Alex Ferguson watched Manchester United silence their "noisy neighbours" in Sunday's 4-3 victory over City before describing the match as the greatest derby of all time.

While his opposite number failed to share his enthusiasm after Michael Owen sealed victory for the hosts in the sixth minute of stoppage time, Mark Hughes did promise that this was a sign of things to come.

City equalised three times at Old Trafford against the Premier League champions before succumbing to Owen's controversial goal, scored 90 seconds after the four additional minutes initially displayed had elapsed.

The issue of the additional time clearly left a bitter taste in the mouth of Hughes and the City followers who helped generate a phenomenal atmosphere at this most eagerly-awaited of derbies.

At the end of a week which has seen rival managers and players launch a variety of verbal onslaughts in each other's direction, Ferguson had the final word.

"Sometimes you've got a noisy neighbour and you have to live with it," said Ferguson, the hint of a smile on his face. "You can't do anything about them and they keep on making noise.

"But what you can do, and what we've shown today, is that you can get on with your life, put your television on and turn it up a bit louder.

"The players showed their playing power and that's the best answer of all," he added. "But they will always be noisy!

"The fact that we made the mistakes probably made it the best derby game of all time and would we have rather won 6-0 or had the greatest derby game of all time? I'd rather have won 6-0."


The grudging respect shown by Ferguson was warranted as Gareth Barry cancelled out Wayne Rooney's early opening goal before, in a stunning second half, Craig Bellamy twice equalised headed goals from Darren Fletcher.

The second Bellamy strike came with five seconds left in normal time and the resulting celebrations enjoyed by the City players enjoyed and their fans in the 75,066 crowd were behind the reasons for the additional time added on.

"The fourth official told me he added a minute-plus because of our celebration when we scored our third," said Hughes of referee Martin Atkinson's time keeping.

"But we timed the amount of time from when we scored to when they kicked off and it was something like 45 seconds so he has got that wrong."

However, while Hughes conceded he felt little apart from disappointment immediately after the game, there was also a real sense that City's title credentials are serious and the former United player took consolation from the way in which United celebrated victory.

"They seemed quite excitable at the end which shows you what this win means to them," said Hughes. "It was reminiscent of some of the scenes with Brian Kidd and Alex Ferguson in days gone by and I saw Gary Neville running on the pitch like a lunatic!

"It's a game we can take many positives out of and we are not going to go away."