Pressure mounts on Red Devils ahead of Manchester showdown

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Sir Alex Ferguson may be fending off doubts over his squad but the Manchester United manager is certain FA Cup foes Manchester City will be acutely aware of the threat they pose.

After successive defeats to Blackburn and Newcastle, Ferguson is again on the back foot.

Three points adrift of City in the Premier League title race, United head to the Etihad Stadium tomorrow looking to avoid suffering a third loss on the trot for the first time since 2001.

He does so with a squad badly depleted by injury and convinced the players he could bring in to bolster it are not of the right quality to enhance United long-term.

Yet, despite the pessimism, Ferguson also knows his Red Devils carry a history of fighting successfully against the odds.

More importantly, the Scot is aware his opponents know it, too.

“Manchester City have a strong, experienced squad,” said Ferguson. “It is not unexpected where they are but they also know we are right behind them.”

It leaves Ferguson convinced only Tottenham could gatecrash the Manchester duopoly in the Premier League.

“In some respects, we can say well done to still be there,” he said. “And we are still there. A lot is going to happen between now and the end of the season but I can’t see anyone outside the three top teams winning the league.”

Yet those words merely heighten the feeling amongst United fans that their club could just do with one or two more players during the transfer window to make the difference between winning trophies and ending up as also-rans.

Frank Lampard’s name has emerged and it was interesting that, in a defence of his recruitment policy, the United manager did not reject the theory of signing Chelsea’s long-serving midfielder, just the notion of Andre Villas-Boas being willing to do a deal.

“You are not going to tell me Chelsea would sell Frank Lampard to Manchester United in January. Do you really believe that?” said Ferguson. “There is no foundation to that. Chelsea are like us. They want to do something. The second half of the season is going to be important to them.

“If they want to try and win the league they will need to have all their best players.”

The same could be said of many potential targets, which is why he believes it is better to trust the players at his disposal, even though defeat tomorrow would pile even more pressure on the men from Old Trafford.