Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester City have overtaken Liverpool as his side’s greatest rivals in the Premier League.

The two Manchester clubs will meet on Monday in what is being billed as a winner-takes-all showdown in the title race, with Ferguson’s men leading by three points with four games to go.

Traditionally the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United has ben amongst the fiercest in English football, with the two teams boasting 37 league titles between them.

However in recent years Liverpool have been unable to keep pace with United, who recently overtook their tally of 18 league titles to become English football’s most successful club.

With the emergence of Manchester City as a real force in English football thanks to heavy investment from their Abu-Dhabi based owners, Ferguson believes the two Manchester rivals are in the midst of forming one of the great rivalries of the Premier League era

"We have to get used to playing Manchester City in important games," he told BBC Sport.

He added: "The support they have means we are going to be playing them in a lot of big games.

"If we are going to be contesting for league titles regularly - and I think we will be doing - it will become just as important as the Liverpool game.

"Maybe not in terms of emotion because the Liverpool-United games are emotional.

"But there is certainly an importance which, at this moment in time, supercedes the Liverpool games."

United have seen their advantage in the title race whittled away to just three points following dropped points against Wigan and Everton in recent weeks, while City have rejuvenated their campaign thanks to convincing wins over Norwich, West Brom and Wolves in recent weeks.

With the prospect of both teams being level on points should City extend their immaculate record at the Etihad Stadium, Ferguson insists he will not be fooled into playing for the draw and protecting his side’s current points advantage.

“We know the exact situation we are in here,” he commented.

"We are in a better position than Manchester City. We can get two results, they can only get one.

"They have to win. We can draw or we can win, which is what we will be trying to do."

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