Manchester United have finally realised how much of a threat Manchester City pose in the Barclays Premier League title race - that is the view of Micah Richards in the build-up to Sunday's top-of-the-table clash at Old Trafford.
It was only last year that Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson described their local rivals as 'noisy neighbours' - but the England defender now feels that United are starting to fear City.
"United now know, much as they won't say it, that we are a genuine threat to them," said Richards. "To get that banner down is quality - we have got the last laugh.
"We are not going out and saying we will win this game or that game, but they call us the noisy neighbours. I think they're a bit frightened."
With the two sides sitting pretty at the top of the table, the 23-year-old is anticipating a thrilling encounter, with much more to play for than just local pride.
"The last four derbies have not been that ferocious really, three or four years ago it was ridiculous, some of the tackling," he added. "I'd like to see that again, that ferocity, as it makes it more special. We all like to see nice football, but everyone loves a good tackle.
"It used to be the case that we went to United and got battered every time but in the last year or two we have gone to United and sometimes looked the better team, on their own patch, so it shows how far we have come in a short space of time.
"We have improved a lot and want the ball down to play - in those days it was about getting 11 men behind the ball and defending, and if we got a chance we had to take it. That's what we did.
"If you speak to Mancini he wants to go there and win. People talked about us last season being boring and negative, but if you watch us now we are completely the opposite."
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