Ferguson: Derby stakes are high
© AFP

Sir Alex Ferguson reckons the stakes have rarely been higher for a Manchester derby ahead of Wednesday's match at Eastlands.

Manchester City trail Ferguson's second-placed Manchester United by three points as both sets of supporters continue to get used to the Blues' heightened expectations of success. Ferguson has rarely wasted an opportunity to comment on what is going on at Eastlands since the Abu Dhabi United Group's takeover of City in 2008.

He has often expressed wonder at the millions City have spent on new players and was quick to criticise the Blues over the 'Welcome to Manchester' Carlos Tevez poster they erected in the city centre shortly after signing the Argentinian from United. Ferguson also branded them 'noisy neighbours' after United's 4-3 derby victory at Old Trafford last season and was also critical of their treatment of sacked manager Mark Hughes, who was a United striker under Ferguson.

Meetings between the Manchester clubs have always been passionate battles but it has been four decades since they have been played for important points in the title race. Ferguson feels that after City manager Roberto Mancini spent £130m ($210m) on six new players in the pre-season, that the Blues have no choice but to challenge for the Premier League this term.

It (City's good start this season) does put an edge on (the game), I don't believe there's any question about that.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

But he also thinks that they will continue to spend at their present rate until they achieve success. "It (City's good start this season) does put an edge on (the game), I don't believe there's any question about that," Ferguson said. "We know the kind of money they're spending - they've bought another five or six players in the summer - and they'll keep doing that until they win something.

"You know that's going to be the way it is and you have to deal with it as it comes along. They're up there (challenging for the title), and you can't wait until tomorrow when there's something there today. I'm sure they're thinking that way themselves."

Veteran United midfielder Paul Scholes said City's improved form had put some extra spice into the derby for everyone connected with both clubs. "We are all desperate to stay above City," Scholes said. "That goes for everyone. Even a 21-year-old newcomer to the club will feel the same way.

"We wouldn't like City to win anything in much the same way as they wouldn't want us to win anything else. Maybe City expect a bit more than they have done in the past and rightly so with the money they have spent and the players they have bought. That expectation has not always been there in the past."

Ferguson is hoping Nani and Ryan Giggs overcome respective groin and hamstring problems as United look to continue their unbeaten start in the Premier League and maintain the pressure on leaders Chelsea, whom they trail by two points, as well as landing a considerable blow on their neighbours.

Last season United also won at Eastlands in the league and overcame Mancini's side over two legs in the League Cup semi final. Mancini had faced mounting speculation about his own future going into the weekend after three straight defeats but City responded with a 2-0 victory at West Brom that kept them in the top four.

City will be without suspended striker Mario Balotelli against United but Kolo Toure feels the Blues are still in good shape. "The West Brom win has made us very happy and put us in the perfect frame of mind ahead of Wednesday's derby.

"It was a good weekend for us with so many teams around us dropping points. It was really important we beat West Brom because it's very difficult for a team with aspirations of challenging at the top to lose three games in a row. The derby is a massive game for us and it will be really hard because they (United) are a very strong team, but we will go out to win the match."