Sat, Jan 14, 2006 - Page 18 News List

It's the battle of the Mans in Premier League

AP , LONDON

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, right, stands with new French signing Patrice Evra at the Carrington training facility in Manchester, England, on Thursday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Manchester United takes on local rival Manchester City today, hoping the optimism generated by its new signings helps improve a shaky start to 2006.

Manchester United has drawn all three of its games since Jan. 1, one each in the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup. It now needs victory at Manchester City to cut Chelsea's lead atop the Premier League to 10 points, at least until Chelsea plays last-place Sunderland on Sunday.

Manager Alex Ferguson has shored up his defense by signing Nemanja Vidic from Spartak Moscow and Patrice Evra from Monaco for a combined total of about 12 million pounds (18 million euros). While only Evra is likely to play Saturday, Ferguson said the backing of the club's American owners had helped lift the team.

Many fans had been angry at Malcolm Glazer's takeover last May.

"Without question, I have found the owners excellent," Ferguson said. "They have never failed in their promises and support in what we have done. They have demonstrated this by their commitment to signing Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic."

Ferguson's spending may not be over. Real Madrid 's Denmark midfielder Thomas Gravesen has been linked to United as a replacement for former captain Roy Keane, who left in November.

Manchester City is ninth after four games without a win, but can draw upon memories of Sept. 10's 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

City manager Stuart Pearce hasn't decided who he'll play up front. Andy Cole, Darius Vassell and Antoine Sibierski are all fit, but Pearce must also consider Robbie Fowler, who marked his first start of the season by scoring a hat trick in Saturday's 3-1 FA Cup win over Scunthorpe.

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