Manchester City defender Kolo Toure has become the first player to stoke the flames ahead of this Saturday's derby by suggesting that Manchester United's first defeat of the season against Wolves could be the sign of a slump to come.
United were beaten 2-1 at Molineux on Saturday, a result that ended their hopes of going through the entire Premier League season unbeaten, while City's 3-0 victory over West Brom saw Toure and co move to within five points of their Manchester rivals.
City go to Old Trafford this weekend looking to further close the gap at the top and also avenge last season's agonising 4-3 defeat, courtesy of Michael Owen's injury-time winner.
And Toure, who was part of the Arsenal side that went through the 2003-04 campaign without tasting defeat, believes that United now face a stern examination of their credentials after recalling how the Gunners struggled when their run eventually ended with a defeat to Sir Alex Ferguson's men.
"When you're on a good run like that and you lose, everything becomes harder," Toure said. "It shakes your confidence. Maybe that can happen to them. It was difficult to lose that game.
"The circumstances were hard because they got a penalty, which we didn't think was a penalty. For us, it was really difficult to lose to United. I think it's a great chance for me to get my revenge.
"I have spent most of my career in England battling United, first at Arsenal, now at City. They are always at the top. Now we have new players, we are capable of fighting against them and that has been shown with our results against them over the last 18 months.''
And Carlos Tevez, who on Monday reiterated his love for City, has insisted that he is unworried by the prospect of being heavily booed on his third return to Old Trafford since leaving United for their cross-city rivals in 2009.
"I don't care about people booing me at Old Trafford," Tevez told ZOO magazine. "It doesn't worry me and I'm not worried about going there. The booing happened a lot last year, but I understand. As a supporter, you defend your club and I am on the opposing team now.
"Manchester United fans can never say I didn't give my all during the time I was there. Maybe many supporters still don't understand the reason I left. I am a professional footballer and being booed when I am on the field is a price I have to pay sometimes. But it won't affect me at all.
"Derby games are always beautiful. I enjoyed them in Argentina and Brazil but, in England, they are extra-special. Playing against Manchester United is a big incentive but it's not just because of personal issues for me. It's about the importance of three points. We want to go to Old Trafford and win.''