Derby of all derbies - Manchester teams City, United in pivotal clash
The Etihad Stadium plays host to the biggest Manchester derby in English Premier League history when Manchester United visit Manchester City this evening.
United are three points clear of their neighbours at the top of the league going into the match and Sir Alex Ferguson has accepted that this is the most important derby during his time at the club.
"We need a result. It's a derby of amazing proportions," said Ferguson. "It is probably the most important derby game in my time. We have to go there, make sure we perform in the right way and not give away silly goals.
"There's no reason why we can't get a good result. There has been an expectancy from City that this could be their decider, but it's our decider too.
"Last year we were in the same situation with Chelsea. Had we lost they would have caught us up with better goal difference, but we won. It's a similar situation, but this is the derby game of all derby games. They are our nearest rivals and it makes everybody step up a notch in terms of anticipation.
"You look at the points totals that both teams are probably going to amass and you will see that it's championship form from both teams. But whoever loses will be tinged with regret simply because it's a derby thing."
Wins in their remaining three games would see City lift the title, thanks to their superior goal difference, but manager Roberto Mancini continues to insist that United are favourites to retain their league crown.
"Until you finish the championship or every game, anything can happen. But my opinion is always the same - I think they have more chance than us," said Mancini.
"We play the derby Monday and then afterwards Newcastle, that will be a very tough game, then after that QPR. Instead, United will play against Swansea and Sunderland and I think for them they will be two easy games. I think (even) if we win this game, they are favourites.
"I don't think they have pressure because they are used to it every year. For us, it's different because it's the first time.
"At the moment, we don't have any pressure because we are not expected to win. But we want to finish well. It's important for our season."
Man City have doubts over Micah Richards (hamstring), while United will hold late tests for Jonny Evans (knock), Michael Owen (thigh) and Nani (ankle). Anderson (hamstring), Anders Lindegaard (ankle), Darren Fletcher (bowel) and Nemanja Vidic (knee) remain missing for the defending champions.
City are unbeaten at home this season, winning more games, scoring more goals and conceding less at their own ground than any other team in the Premier League.
United have the best away record in the top flight and have conceded just 13 goals in their 17 games on the road. The defending Premier League champions have yet to lose a match which Paul Scholes has started this season, while the 6-1 defeat to City earlier this season was the first time in five years that Wayne Rooney failed to score in a league Manchester derby.