Sir Alex Ferguson reckons there is an incredible intensity in the Manchester derby that has not existed between the City and United teams for around 15 years which can be read as a grudging acceptance that United’s neighbours are emerging as genuine rivals in the chase for domestic and European honours.
Ferguson is quick to torment Roberto Mancini and the City fans with claims that Chelsea are his true rivals and he frequently refers to the respective medal counts of United and City staff.
Manchester United observers are well aware that Sir Alex saves this sort of mind-game for managers and teams that he sees as a threat to his side’s progress and no-one is capable of ramping up the pressure around a game more than Ferguson.
Mancini has come under some pressure in the media following City’s recent drop in form and a run of three successive defeats was broken with the 2-0 win at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
But City occupy fourth position in the Premier League just three points behind second placed United and are well poised to progress to the knockout stages of the Europa Cup, so Mancini can argue everything is on track at Eastlands.
Bookmakers are edging toward City to make the most of home advantage, Paddy Power offering the best odds of 17/10 for a City win.
Form-wise, United have the momentum with six straight wins in all competitions and have the psychological edge with a superior head to head record in the period since the oil millions arrived at Eastlands.
It took a last minute strike from Paul Scholes to break the deadlock for United’s 1-0 win on their last visit in April this year and it was Wayne Rooney who scored the only goal in the previous Premier League encounter in the City of Manchester stadium in November 2008.
In between, the Manchester clubs fought out a two-legged Carling Cup semi-final where City won the home leg 2-1 before Rooney settled the tie when another 90th minute goal clinched a 3-1 win at Old Trafford.
On Sunday, Mancini welcomed the return of Carlos Tevez whose thigh injury coincided with City’s slump in form, he bounced straight back by setting up Mario Ballotelli’s first goal on 20 minutes.
Tevez has scored three times against his former club since moving across the city in the summer of 2009 and William Hill bet 5/1 for him to open the scoring.
The Argentina striker could be asked to play up on his own on Wednesday as Ballotelli is suspended after being sent off against West Brom and Emmanuel Adebayour is doubtful with a slight calf injury.
Otherwise, Mancini has the rest of his first team squad available and does not have the selection problems facing his opposite number.
Ferguson has said he has ‘no idea’ what his team will be as a flu virus is raging amongst the squad to add to his injury problems.
Ryan Giggs and Nani are injury doubts while Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick, Anderson and Darron Gibson are thought to be among the flu sufferers.
Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra played through Saturday’s win against Wolves while struggling with flu symptoms and are hoped to have improved for the derby clash.
Owen Hargreaves, Rooney, Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia have already been ruled with their injuries.