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Van der Sar: Ferguson will lead United to derby success

From Amanda Davies, CNN
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon April 30, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former Manchester United goalkeeper says Alex Ferguson will have a key role in derby
  • Edwin van der Sar is hoping for a 1-1 draw between rivals Man United and Man City
  • The 41-year-old believes Manchester derby has grown in importance in last year
  • Defending champions United hold three-point lead ahead of game at City's home ground

(CNN) -- The experience of Alex Ferguson could be the key to Monday's potentially title-deciding Manchester derby, according to one of the veteran manager's former stalwarts Edwin van der Sar.

The Dutchman retired last year after Manchester United claimed a record 19th English championship, but that reign appeared to be over earlier this season as big-spending Manchester City took pole position under the guidance of Roberto Mancini.

A form slump allowed United to move eight points clear at the top -- but that has been cut to three with three games to play ahead of the clash at City's Etihad Stadium.

Ferguson is the most successful British manager of the modern era, having won 12 Premier League titles and two European Champions League crowns in more than quarter of a century at Old Trafford.

U.S. focused on England's biggest game

"He will be right up for it. He's had challenges over the last 26 years against various teams and he beat them, he got down to them and he diminished them and he's going to do the same with City," Van der Sar told CNN.

Ferguson on United title hopes
Pep Guardiola has been on a year-long sabbatical in the U.S. after stepping down as Barcelona coach, but he returned to Europe in January for the Ballon d'Or when he was shortlisted for FIFA's world coach of the year award. Pep Guardiola has been on a year-long sabbatical in the U.S. after stepping down as Barcelona coach, but he returned to Europe in January for the Ballon d'Or when he was shortlisted for FIFA's world coach of the year award.
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The end of an era: Josep Guardiola The end of an era: Josep Guardiola

"He's going to motivate the players because it's a massive moment to win the Barclays Premier League. He's going to do it the same way he always does -- of course there are going to be remarks about, 'You have to win otherwise you're not going to show your face for the next two months in Manchester,' all that kind of thing. But in general it's all about tactics."

Mancini guided City to the club's first silverware since 1976 with success in the FA Cup last season, but it has been 44 years since a league title was celebrated by the blue half of Manchester.

"They've both got strikers on good form -- Sergio Aguero scored a lot of goals, Wayne Rooney scored a lot of goals," said Van der Sar, who played for United for six seasons.

"I think City has slightly a better defensive record. But I think the midfield is going to be the place where it's going to be decided.

"Hopefully my old teammates are up for it, can withstand the pressure."

The 41-year-old revealed he was hoping for a draw, which would leave United in the box seat ahead of final games at home to Swansea and away to Sunderland. City must next travel to Champions League-chasing Newcastle and relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers.

"My heart is right, of course you want a win for United, and a draw would be fine also. So let's go for a draw, a 1-1 or something to decide who's going to win the Barclays Premiership. That would be great," he said.

Van der Sar is one of the few footballers to have won the Champions League with two different teams -- helping deliver Ajax the title in 1995 and repeating the feat with United in 2008.

The man named UEFA Best European Goalkeeper in 1995 and 2009 said that the Manchester derby had grown in importance in the last year along with City's fortunes.

"I remember when I came here and played a game and even lost during one of the seasons -- we lost both games -- but still ended up winning the league. They were still so happy that they won from us, even though we ended up winning the league so it didn't really matter that much," he said.

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