RELATIONS between the two Manchester clubs have sunk even lower with Carlos Tevez hitting back at Gary Neville by accusing the Manchester United defender of showing him a lack of respect.
Tevez was furious at Neville's criticisms of him, with Neville saying Alex Ferguson had been right to let the striker leave Old Trafford last summer, ahead of Tuesday night's highly charged Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
During the match, Neville appeared to make a one-fingered gesture towards Tevez after he scored City's penalty to draw level. The Argentine then gesticulated towards Neville as if to tell him to be quiet because of his pre-match comments. The United club captain is, however, likely to escape an FA charge to explain his gesture.
Tevez, who went to score City's winning goal in the game, said last night: "I was particularly disappointed with what Gary Neville had to say because he was not aware of the full details of my contract negotiations with Manchester United because I kept them very much to myself.
"Alex Ferguson knew that my contract was coming to an end and it was not until the last day that I was finally made an offer. It was too late by then. For Gary to make his comments was disrespectful."
During last season Tevez had appealed for his future at United to be resolved as he was coming towards the end of a two-year loan agreement.
United had an option to sign him on a five-year deal, for a fixed fee of £25.5m, having already paid £9m in loan fees, but this was not taken up until it was too late with the player already set on leaving.
"We were team-mates and we played alongside each other and I have a great respect for Gary," Tevez added. "I thought the feeling was mutual. The goal celebration was made without any malice. It was in the passion of scoring in a Manchester derby.
"It was part of the banter of football and I'm sure he will give me something like that back if he scores at Old Trafford next week. I have respect for all the United players and the management and I believe I deserve their respect back."
Tevez, who has now scored 17 goals this season, also expressed his annoyance over the criticism he faced at the start of his City career.
"What people have to understand is that I started with a knee injury and I was playing with that," he said. "I was not fit. I even flew the Argentinian team physio over at my own expense so that it would be treated by someone who knew me alongside City's own specialist.
"So it's been particularly disappointing to hear the criticism I faced at the start of the season when people said I was not worth the money. I was not at full speed. I played because Adebayor was suspended and Santa Cruz injured and (the then-manager) Mark Hughes asked me to and I wanted to.
"But I could not play at my best and now I can do that and I am scoring. It was not until I played against West Ham (on September 28), when I scored twice, that I was finally fit again.
"I've won the Champions League, the Premier League, the Copa Libertadores, an Olympic gold medal and been South American footballer of the year three times (2003, 2004, 2005) -- more than Diego Maradona. Surely I deserve some respect.
"But if they do not want to give it to me then I will try to earn it on the pitch. I also don't think that a professional footballer should be criticising a fellow professional in this way. It does not help the game."
The FA's disciplinary unit are continuing to study Tuesday night's incident, but the absence of conclusive photographic or televisual evidence has rendered it unlikely that Neville will be charged with misconduct.
He had been warned as to his future conduct by the FA following an incendiary goal celebration in front of the City supporters during United's 4-3 Premier League victory at Old Trafford in September. (© Daily Telegraph, London)