Insults fly between title rivals United and City
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By STUART CONDIE
LONDON (AP) Insults have started flying between Manchester United and Manchester City more than a month before the Premier League title contenders go head-to-head for the last time this season.
The rivals don't meet until April 30 but the tension from a close title race is already showing.
Riled that City official Patrick Vieira said United's decision to allow Paul Scholes to rescind his retirement was a desperate move, United manager Alex Ferguson criticized City for recalling Carlos Tevez after he ended his strike.
"Desperation? Paul Scholes is the best midfielder of the last 20 years," Ferguson said Friday. "Desperation? On Wednesday, they played a player who refused to go on the pitch and the manager had said would never play for them again. What is that?"
City takes on Stoke on Saturday with Tevez again in the squad following his six-month absence, leaving defending champion United likely to need a victory over Fulham on Monday to maintain its slender one-point lead at the top of the standings.
Ferguson said he will have a strong team at Old Trafford on Monday after Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Fabio Da Silva, Tom Cleverley and Paul Pogba all returned to action from injury or illness in a reserve match on Thursday.
"It puts us in a position where we have quite a strong squad now," Ferguson said. "We are only waiting on Nani and Michael Owen. We expect both of them to restart training next week.
"Every game is must-win now. That is no issue for me. I have been used to that for years."
That could be interpreted as another jibe at City's expense, with United having won 12 of its English record 19 league titles since City won the last of its two in 1968.
Tevez is again likely to be on the bench against Stoke after making his first appearance in six months as a substitute in Wednesday's 2-1 win over Chelsea.
City hopes to have captain Vincent Kompany back after the defender missed three games because of a calf injury. His central defensive partner Joleon Lescott is out with a hip problem.
Also Saturday, Chelsea hosts Tottenham needing victory to close on its London rival and maintain its chances of qualifying for the Champions League.
Tottenham is on a four-match winless streak - its worst run of the season - and will again be without winger Aaron Lennon because of a hamstring injury. Lennon trained Thursday but is not fit enough to play.
Striker Emmanuel Adebayor is also a major doubt for Tottenham with a hamstring injury, while Ledley King will have a late fitness test on his long-standing knee problem.
Arsenal hosts Aston Villa seeking to add to the six straight wins that have taken the Gunners a point ahead of Spurs and put them in position for third place, which brings automatic qualification rather than a spot in the Champions League playoffs.
Also Saturday, Bolton hosts fellow struggler Blackburn, Liverpool hosts Wigan, Norwich hosts Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sunderland hosts Queens Park Rangers and Swansea hosts Everton.
Newcastle is at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
League Championship leader Southampton hosts Doncaster on Saturday, when second-place Reading hosts Blackpool and West Ham is at Burnley.
Updated March 23, 2012