United have been the dominant force in English football for the last 20 years, but they have fallen out of contention for domestic honours this season under new manager David Moyes. The defending champions are currently 15 points off the pace in the Premier League in seventh place and have also been eliminated from the two domestic cup competitions.
Moyes's side will face Olympiacos in the UEFA Champions League last 16, but while it represents their only chance of silverware this season, City are gunning for glory on four fronts. They are three points behind leaders Chelsea in the Premier League with a game in hand, have reached the final of the League Cup and the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, and face Barcelona in the Champions League.
City won the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League in 2012, and Pellegrini says that on this season's evidence, they have now moved ahead of United. "If we consider only this season, Manchester City is the only big team in Manchester," Pellegrini told a press conference on Monday on the eve of his side's last 16 first leg at home to Barcelona.
"But we can't forget what Manchester United did in the last years. This season the club (City) wants to fight for titles and continue to grow and give us time to develop a playing philosophy."
Fernandinho in the frame
Pellegrini also confirmed that Fernandinho should be fit to face Barcelona. The Brazil international has missed City's last three matches due to a muscular problem, but he took part in training on Monday and could now face Barcelona in Tuesday's game at the Etihad Stadium.
"He has a chance because he's in the squad list for tomorrow," Pellegrini told a press conference. "We'll see tomorrow which 11 we start with, but he's in the squad list. He worked without any problems."
Midfielder James Milner is suspended, while Pellegrini confirmed that striker Sergio Aguero will not feature due to a hamstring problem. "Aguero is not in the squad list," Pellegrini added. "He's not fit for tomorrow. It was very difficult for him to be, so we'll see if he can be fit on Saturday (when City host Stoke City in the Premier League), but maybe it also is difficult."
Centre-back Matija Nastasic is also expected to miss out against Barcelona after he was unable to play an active part in an open training session on Monday morning.
City have thrilled neutral fans with their attacking football this season, notably scoring 68 goals in their 25 league games to date, and Pellegrini says that they will not ignore their instincts against Barça. "When you play against Barcelona, against important teams, you always must consider important things," said the Chilean.
"But I think the most important thing is to try to be the same team that you are seeing every week here in the Premier League. That for me is very important, to continue having the style of play, to continue having the personality to try to beat Barcelona.
"You cannot play without considering that in front you have (Lionel) Messi, you have other important players. But we are not going to play just thinking of defending and not thinking of what we can do with the ball."