Manchester City v Manchester United

Rio: Focus key for City FA Cup semi

April 13, 2011
By ESPNsoccernet staff

Rio Ferdinand says Sir Alex Ferguson will implore his players not to get caught up in the occasion when Manchester United face rivals Man City for a place in the FA Cup final.

Rio Ferdinand and Sir Alex Ferguson face the press
AFPRio Ferdinand shares a joke with Sir Alex Ferguson

The clashes between the two great rivals are always hyped up, even more so since the massive influx of cash from Sheikh Mansour threatened to gatecrash City into England's elite. Yet nothing will compare to this weekend, when the red and blue halves of a divided city descend on Wembley with an FA Cup final place at stake.

With United still on course for the Treble following Wednesday's Champions League victory over Chelsea and City desperate to end 35 years without a trophy, the demand for victory is obvious for both sides. However, as Ferdinand revealed, Ferguson will try to ensure his players ignore the outside distractions and concentrate on winning.

"The manager always says you don't play the occasion you play the game,'' said Ferdinand. "If you get too wrapped up in all the stuff that goes on around it you lose sight of where you want to get to.

"We won't be taking much emotion into the game the way the fans do. We have to remain calm. Then anything is possible.''

Ferdinand also paid tribute to Javier Hernandez and Park Ji-Sung after they grabbed a goal apiece to seal United's berth in the last four of the Champions League.

Hernandez's strike gave United a a crucial advantage after they had weathered early pressure from Chelsea, the young Mexican striker's confident and lively performance a contrast to that of £50 million man Fernando Torres.

Park then snuffed out any hope of a comeback with a goal just seconds after Didier Drogba had given Chelsea's ten men a lifeline with an equaliser. And Ferdinand said both players are vital to the club.

"The lads in the changing room sometimes laugh at the amount of work that Ji gets through because it is just ridiculous,'' said Ferdinand.

"We just want to know what he eats pre-match and at home. He must have a different diet to all of us because the way he runs and the energy he has got is phenomenal. It is great to have him as a part of your team. He is definitely an unsung hero.''

Hernandez was just as much of an unknown quantity when Ferguson confirmed his arrival from Mexican outfit Chivas towards the end of last season. It was Hernandez's performances at the World Cup that first suggested United had unearthed a rare gem. Since then, the 22-year-old has gone some way beyond any expectation.

He scored his 18th goal of the season against the Blues, which put the trials of Torres on the same pitch and Edin Dzeko for Manchester City into some kind of perspective. Hernandez repeats the mantra of the team being more important than him almost as often as evergreen 37-year-old Ryan Giggs talks about a succession of landmarks in his unique career only being of interest to him when he looks back at the end of his playing days.

"Javier is doing things at 22 that strikers are only just learning about when they are seasoned professionals of 27 or 28,'' said Ferdinand. "He has just come to the club and is doing textbook stuff like running across the front post all the time to score goals.

"It is great to see. That is why he is nicking so many goals. He is also following up and is on the back post as well.''

When Andy Carroll was finding the net for Liverpool on Monday, he was breaking a collective duck on behalf of three forwards who cost a combined total of £112 million in January. Hernandez set Ferguson back just £7 million.

"He is definitely a bargain,'' said Ferdinand. "But it doesn't matter how much he cost, it is all about doing the job when you come in. He is doing a job fantastically well.''