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Fergie gags players

ALEX FERGUSON has shut down access to his players in the run-up to the most important Manchester derby in history.

Never one to downplay a siege mentality when possible, Ferguson has instructed Old Trafford PR staff to turn down all requests for player interviews in the next five days.

Ferguson has clearly decided that his players cannot have any distractions at all in the build-up to next Monday's massive Premier League title showdown.

So far, only Michael Owen has been allowed speak to media and even that was restricted to Old Trafford's in-house television channel, MUTV.

Owen is desperate to play some role in what has become a nail-biting finish to the season after a run of injuries which has left him sitting in the Carrington treatment room for much of the season.

"I might be needed for 10 or 20 minutes at a late stage of the season. Who knows? It could be the last game of the season at Sunderland. I might have built up enough, whether playing in a Reserves game or two, and then that's fine," said Owen.

"But I think the immediate thing is to get myself mentally ready, just in case the manager says: 'I'll put you on the bench' or whatever, and I'll come on for 15 minutes and try to nick a goal if we're struggling."



Twists

Former United skipper Bryan Robson believes there will be "more twists and turns" in the League title race before one of the Manchester clubs is crowned champions.

Robson is backing the side which keeps a cool head in next Monday's derby at the Etihad Stadium to triumph.

But Robson insists City will still have plenty of work ahead even if they come out on top against the Red Devils. Robson said: "There will be more twists and turns in the season.

"Three months ago City were eight points clear of United with the home derby to come.

"But it turned around, United went five points in front and now it has changed around again with City back in it.

"City are back in form, have played very well the last two games, but on their day United can pick their game up and they are a match for anyone.

"They have loads of experience for the big games and for me it's about who is going to handle that atmosphere and the occasion the best on Monday.

"The players who stay mentally focused and calm will probably go on to win the game."

Robson believes Ferguson will view winning the Premier League this season as one of his greatest triumphs given the resources available at City.



Overhaul

But Robson expects Ferguson to overhaul his squad this summer whatever the outcome of the title race during the next three weeks.

Robson said: "If United pip City for the title, Sir Alex will take extra pleasure because it is at the expense of the local rivals.

"There has always been great rivalry between the two clubs but for the first time in many years, City are up there challenging for the title.

"That is why for Alex, with it being Manchester City, it will be extra special for him, because of the resources City have got."


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