Paul Scholes has admitted he will not consider Manchester City to be a major threat until the Premier League's big spenders boast some silverware.
Ferguson: Smalling is ready
The Manchester United camp is in a bullish mood ahead of Saturday's crucial derby, with neither players nor manager even considering a loss to their crosstown and now title rivals.
Sir Alex Ferguson feels United can all but sew up the Premier League title with victory in the early kick-off at Old Trafford while his players have spoken of their desire to secure bragging rights over an increasingly noisy neighbour.
United veteran Scholes knows how much the fixture means to fans as a standalone match but he said he does not yet quite see it as the kind of season-defining clash that occurs when United face Chelsea or Arsenal - although he conceded it is growing ever closer.
"They are definitely getting closer,'' said Scholes. "Whether they are alongside Chelsea and Arsenal yet I am not sure. They would probably have to win something to become main rivals. But I am sure this year they will be fighting for it and the same will be true in years to come with more improvement.
"It is more than local pride now,'' he said. "We are both going for trophies and we are both main rivals for trophies. Years ago, they were in the bottom half of the league, or not even in it, and we were always red-hot favourites. Even then it didn't necessarily mean we were going to win, as results proved. And they have better quality players now, which just makes matches against City even more interesting.''
Ferguson said the match has the potential to be a turning point - for better or worse - in the title race for both sides. City currently sit five points behind United, who have a game in hand, with Arsenal poised a point ahead of City.
"It won't be decided tomorrow but the game could be decisive for whoever gets a result when you look back,'' said Ferguson. "At this stage of the season you are going to see a lot of important games. There could be a focus on tomorrow or the matches against Chelsea or Arsenal because the later into the season it goes, the more important the games become because you don't have much time to recover.''
Ferguson, like Scholes, immediately thinks of Arsenal and Chelsea as his biggest threats for honours but he admitted that scenario is quickly changing thanks to Roberto Mancini's team.
"There has been a consistent thread in the Premier League for the last 14 years. It has been Arsenal, ourselves and Chelsea. You have to respect they were the winners last year. They are the champions. But City are in a challenging position, there is no question about that. On the run towards the finishing line you will get a lot of interesting games and City are involved in that.''
Meanwhile, Nani and Ryan Giggs have highlighted the threat of former team-mate Carlos Tevez, who these days leads City from the front as their captain, talisman and top scorer. But that has not stopped Nani expressing his confidence in securing a positive result, claiming it is an "obligation" to beat City.
Nani said in the Sun: "A win over City is an obligation. To beat them will put a big distance between us in the title race and also mean we have taken four points off them this season. I've always been optimistic and insist we are favourites to win the Premier League.
Nani added: "Carlos was our companion and now he is a rival. How do we stop him? By anticipating what he's up to and making sure he never feels comfortable. For the less he is involved the bigger the advantage for us. We are not obsessed with him but we will make sure we do not give him any chances. Without doubt Tevez is very important to City. But they have other players who are also big dangers to us.''
Giggs added that a loss would be hard to live down, saying: "You don't tend to leave the house for a week if you lose. You'll be walking down the street and a City fan will come and let you know about it. But that's just with me being a local lad. It will be tight but hopefully we'll win.
"City are really solid but have that bit of quality as well. There's Carlos obviously, who we know a lot about. David Silva adds that bit of magic that no other player possesses. Obviously when you lose quality players you are going to miss them. Carlos was certainly a quality player. His goals, his movement, his strength - he's just a very good player. But at United we've lost quality players in the past and the club moves on. That's the thing with United."