For years the Manchester derby has been a fixture that City fans may have looked at with secret trepidation, with cross-town rivals United generally dominating proceedings in the local match-up under Sir Alex Ferguson.
However, in recent times the Etihad Stadium outfit has been revolutionised by new owners, a host of international superstars and belief – now the apprehensive outlook will harbour in the Old Trafford faithful.
With City travelling to take on United on Tuesday night in the Premier League, both sides are in desperate need of three points, but something bigger may well be on the line over 90 minutes.
The current Premier League champions have been accustomed to and comfortable in their role as the city’s dominant force, looking down on their less successful neighbours as an afterthought to success.
However, with United struggling under David Moyes and City already having one trophy under their belt this season and looking to add the Premier League to their silverware haul, tomorrow night’s hosts risk losing their status as Manchester’s top dogs.
A Premier League win on enemy soil for the third consecutive time would be quite the statement by City and give them a real boost in their title ambitions.
An away victory at the home of the reigning champions could well be the shot in the arm that Manuel Pellegrini’s need to take the ascendancy in the title race, closing the gap on leaders Chelsea with games in hand.
For United it is time to build on their comeback victory over Olympiakos in the Champions League and show that they are not the pushovers that the wider football community are starting to label them as.
With the recent heavy home defeat to another rival, Liverpool, still fresh in the memory, a much-improved performance is needed for the hosts to get anything from the game.
Although it is more-than-likely too late for United to finish in the top four this term, a win would bolster their modest league position. More importantly, victory over one of England’s best footballing sides would give Moyes’ men a bit of necessary belief before they face the might of Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.
An added incentive for United would be the fact that victory could well derail City’s title bid and potential prove decisive come the end of the campaign.
However, pride is very much on the line too, with City’s 6-1 mauling of United at Old Trafford back in October 2011 very much still in the mind.
Since then the sides have met four times in the Premier League, with City winning three of the encounters. The reverse fixture back in September ended up 4-1 to Pellegrini’s charges and was one of the early signs that United were no longer the force that became English champions at a canter last season.
Clashes between United and City never lack determination, courage, blood or thunder, but the hosts must come up with a gameplan to shackle a superior XI in the form of their opponents.
With local bragging rights at stake, three points for either side could well have a definitive say in both teams’ season. With the bigger picture in mind, the status of being Manchester’s dominant football club also appears well and truly up for grabs.