THE temperature is rising steadily. Despite extensive efforts from the Manchester police and the English FA to douse the flames lit by Gary Neville and Carlos Tevez last week, United and City's Carling Cup return at Old Trafford is still threatening to boil over.
But Manchester United fans woke this morning with an even bigger worry than a bad-tempered Carling Cup semi-final to occupy their minds. Wayne Rooney, it would seem, is refusing to discuss a new deal until after the World Cup finals -- despite a new £40m salary offer.
Growing speculation about the Manchester debt has pointed to the possibility that the Glazer family may have to sell Rooney, the club's only remaining big money asset, to keep the show on the road. The player's apparent insistence that he will not begin talks on a new deal until after the South Africa finals hasn't helped matters.
To make matters worse, moneybags City could probably buy Rooney and the rest of the United squad in an eyeblink if they wanted to which only serves to add more heat to an already spicy Carling Cup mix.
Attempts to damp down the atmosphere surrounding the tie began as early as last Friday after Garry Cooke's boast that City would soon be the biggest club in the world added to concerns that opposing fans could clash.
Now, Carlos Tevez's agent Kia Joorabchian has reopened the battle with Neville and added more fuel to a fire that was already burning nicely. He wasn't alone. Alex Ferguson joined in, calling for Tevez to be banned from the second-leg for a foul on Wes Brown in the first game .
The Greater Manchester Police are putting an extra 75 men on the streets to keep rivals fans apart and avoid a repeat of the events that marred the first game between the clubs, when 18 people were arrested and missiles, including golf balls and darts, were confiscated from United supporters.
Despite strong suggestion from the football authorities that severe sanctions will be levied if there is more inflammatory behaviour, Joorabchian waded in.
"I don't think he made derogatory remarks about Gary Neville," Joorabchian said. "When you are a professional you have to have respect for your companions. If you don't have class, then you have to accept that they are entitled to say something back.
"If Gary Neville is talking about values, he should talk about whether Berbatov was worth whatever or Arshavin or Ronaldo."