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Nov 29, 2008

Hughes: Manchester derby clash 'bigger than ever'

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes accepts Sunday's derby against Manchester United is arguably "bigger than ever" because of their increased financial muscle.

Hughes knows he can compete with the best when the transfer window reopens in January following the takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group in the summer.

However, the former Blackburn Rovers boss feels the pressure on the club to get instant success because of their deep well of new money is over the top.

Hughes said: "The focus on us is a little bit unfair as we are very early in our progression. You look at United, they have had huge investment for 20-odd years. We've had it for about 10 hours.

"They are a world power - we are nowhere near them at this moment. There is a huge difference.

"However, it is probably seen as a bigger derby than ever because of our circumstances. But make no bones about it, we are going in the right direction."

City go into the game in upbeat mood following back-to-back victories against Arsenal in the Barclays Premier League and Schalke in the UEFA Cup.

Former United striker Hughes said: "We could not be in better shape against a very strong team. We are looking forward to it as have had a great week.

"We know we are capable of playing good football but we have compromised ourselves with individual and collective errors.

"What we need is a consistent level of performance - we are still a work in progress."

City managed to complete a league double last season when United went on to claim the European Cup and retain their Premier League title.

"Those two defeats by City were probably their only blot in the last campaign and will want to put that right, " said Hughes, who enjoyed success against Sir Alex Ferguson's side during his time at Blackburn.

"Because of the confidence of being champions of Europe and the Premier League, they expect to win rather than hope to win.

"This is one of the great derbies and they know City will always give them a big test. While you cannot legislate for individual brilliance, what you can do is make it difficult for them."

Hughes believes skipper Richard Dunne is over his rocky patch following a towering performance against Schalke in midweek.

Dunne and Vincent Kompany, who was drafted in from midfield, formed a solid partnership at the back to shackle the Bundesliga team.

Hughes said: "Richard has been absolutely exceptional. He is back to his best.

"That shows strength of character because along with other players he has struggled for form.

"He has been a shining light for us and led by example. We will need more of that for the weekend and the rest of the season. Overall we are in decent shape at moment."

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