As derby day begins to loom large on the horizon, Sir Alex Ferguson accepts that big-spending local rivals Manchester City have changed the face of football as we know it.
With two of the Barclays Premier League title favourites preparing to go head-to-head at Old Trafford on October 23, for the first time in many a year, there is far more than just local pride at stake.
Roberto Mancini's Citizens side sit behing the Red Devils only on goal difference, despite the reigning champions' sensational start to the 2011-12 campaign, but Ferguson says he is unsurprised by City's early-season form.
"All the derbies are big now, that's the nature of the landscape," he told Inside United. "The impetus City now have – they've got a huge squad of players and the financial power to attract some of the best footballers in the world – actually changes the focus of the derby these days.
"The talking point isn't so much the actual game, but the dynamics of how Manchester City have changed football and what we do to compete with that.
"Those factors make it a different sort of derby to the ones we have been used to in the past. But they're a good team and they were always going to be there or thereabouts."
United travel to Merseyside for a Barclays Premier League clash with Liverpool before entertaining City, who have a home tie against Aston Villa next weekend.
And whilst Ferguson isn't underestimating the threat of Kenny Dalglish's side, he has already identified Mancini's main dangermen, when the two sides meet a week on Sunday.
"Sergio Aguero was bound to do well, coming into the Premier League, because he's such a goal threat around the penalty box," he continued. "David Silva is also a very good player.
"We just have to make sure we're ready for City when we meet them. As far as the early league standings go, you have to put things into perspective; you can’t read too much into things.
"That said, where we want to be in May is exactly where we are now – challenging for top spot."
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