Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted you would have to be “a confirmed masochist” to enjoy the intensity of Monday’s Manchester derby – but claims to be looking forward to it anyway.
Once again, the Manchester United manager has billed the visit to Manchester City as a Premier League title decider, with United three points ahead of their rivals going into the match.
“You would have to be a confirmed masochist to enjoy it,” he said. “But we are looking forward to it and the players will be fully prepared for it.”
Even on Sunday, after his team had won at Wolves to reduce the gap to three points – ensuring they will go top if they win – Man City manager Roberto Mancini continued to insist United had won the title.
Ferguson accepts there may have been an element of Mancini taking the pressure off his side.
“Maybe he is trying to take pressure off his own players. But it doesn’t matter. It is not going to affect our approach or attitude to the game,” he said. “We know the exact situation we are in here.
“We are in a better position than Manchester City. We can get two results, they can only get one. They have to win. We can draw or we can win, which is what we will be trying to do.”
Ferguson reports no fresh injury concerns ahead of the match, which has been billed as a game of huge significance since the fixtures were first revealed last summer.
“It was inevitable I suppose,” he said. “It is all down to this game. There will be a considerable number of countries watching it, so I hope it lives up to the billing.”
It is arguably the most important in a succession of derby matches over the past two years, which includes two semi-finals and some memorable league matches, particularly at Old Trafford.
And Ferguson believes that trend is only going to continue.
“We have to get used to playing Manchester City in important games,” he said. “They are not going away.
“The support they have means we are going to be playing them in a lot of big games.
“Finals maybe, we already have done in semi-finals, an important cup tie this season.
“If we are going to be contesting for league titles regularly – and I think we will be doing – it will become just as important as the Liverpool game.
“Maybe not in terms of emotion because the Liverpool-United games are emotional.
“But there is certainly an importance which, at this moment in time, supercedes the Liverpool games.
“They are our direct opponents now. Manchester City are up against us to win titles.
“That is what our focus is on, the team who can stop us winning.”