Manchester City FC's designs on winning the Premier League title have given the derby with Manchester United FC an intensity "which was not there ten or 15 years ago", according to Sir Alex Ferguson.
The United manager believes City's lavish outlay in recent seasons and thirst to qualify for the UEFA Champions League at the very least means the fixture has assumed added significance, particularly since Carlos Tévez left Old Trafford for the City of Manchester Stadium in summer 2009.
"There is an incredible intensity in this derby game now, which was not there ten or 15 years ago," said Sir Alex. "Now the meetings with City are ones of great intensity, which is built up by the media explosion around what they are doing and what they are trying to achieve."
Sir Alex says he has "no idea" what the make-up of his side will be after a virus struck down several members of a squad already shorn of Ryan Giggs (hamstring) and Nani (groin). "We've still got some players out with flu and some players were sent home yesterday so we're not in a great position at the moment," explained Sir Alex, who confirmed Owen Hargreaves will be out for around five weeks with the hamstring injury he suffered on his first start for over two years at the weekend.
City will be without the suspended Mario Balotelli − who scored twice before being sent off in a 3-0 win at West Bromwich Albion FC on Sunday − as they seek to become the first team to defeat United this term and avenge last season's League Cup semi-final reverse.
"We have respect for United and Ferguson because he is the top manager in the world, but we understand that we can beat them now," said manager Roberto Mancini, whose team are fourth, three points behind second-placed United. "I think it will be a good game."
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