Patrice Evra has told Canal+ Sport that Manchester United are "stronger than last season" and believes Sir Alex Ferguson's men missed out on the 2011-12 title because they "worried too much what City were doing".
Evra, 31, was one of United's best performers in the 2-1 defeat of age-old rivals Liverpool on Sunday, teeing up both his team's goals. The win was United's ninth in a ten-game unbeaten run that has eased them seven points clear of champions City.
After watching their neighbours snatch the title away from them on a dramatic final day last May, Evra believes keeping the focus on themselves has been beneficial this term.
"We prepared well for this game," the France international said. "We know that Liverpool against Manchester United is always a big game. It wasn't easy today. Every victory counts. This year, we're thinking of ourselves, whereas last year we worried too much about what City were doing."
Though Ferguson recently acknowledged he was seeking a replacement for Evra, it seems the former Monaco full-back is not quite ready to be put on the shelf, recapturing the form of his earlier years at Old Trafford.
With four goals and as many assists this season, he has contributed more to his side going forward than any defender in Europe, and has fended off competition from Dutch full-back Alexander Buttner, who joined United last summer, to keep his place in the starting line-up.
With Ferguson having moved smartly in the summer to strengthen his squad with talents such as Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie, Evra believes United's late stumble last season, letting slip an eight-point lead over City in the final six games, will not be repeated.
"We finished with the same number of points as them even though everyone said we had a bad season and they had a very good one," Evra added. "If we have a good season, we'll be champions. We're stronger than last year - that's obvious given the additions of players like Van Persie and Kagawa."