Ferguson: It's all down to Monday
While Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini has been attempting to play down the chances of his side ending the season as Premier League champions, Ferguson is happy to talk up the pressure. After all, he is the one who boasts all the championship-winning experience in his squad, who have so many big games under their belts.
However, that engagement with the task should not be mistaken for relishing the intensity of a situation United created for themselves when they threw away that two-goal advantage against Everton on Sunday, and in the process allowed City to creep within striking distance.
It was the kind of self-inflicted wound United have endured so often during Ferguson's long reign. And it never gets any easier to take. "I am a confirmed masochist," said Ferguson. "I joined about 26 years ago. When the fixtures came out at the beginning of the season, it all pointed to this game. It was inevitable I suppose. In the context of our history, we almost expected it.
"Our supporters have been subjected to that drama for years and years. God knows what they are like just now."
It is true that United tend to make life hard for themselves. That epic 1999 UEFA Champions League final victory is the most obvious example, but there are plenty of other instances down the years where the Red Devils have staggered over the line after initially appearing to saunter towards it.
There is one clear advantage this time around, which could be vital - they do not actually have to win. "We know the exact situation we are in here," said Ferguson. "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, although you know my attitude and the club's attitude. We will be trying to win."
Manchester rivalry heats up
What is now being billed as the most important Manchester derby of all is the latest in a succession of fixtures between the red and blue halves of a divided city which seem to have increased in intensity on every occasion.
Starting with that memorable Michael Owen injury-time winner, there have been two semi-finals which yielded one victory apiece, Wayne Rooney's magnificent winner at Old Trafford last season, United just holding off a rampant 10-man City to claim an FA Cup third round triumph at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season, and the Blues' magnificent 6-1 win last October.
"We have to get used to playing Manchester City in important games," said Ferguson. "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 and 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, but there is certainly an importance which, at this moment in time, supersedes 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."
Yet, for all that, Ferguson accepts what has gone before is of no consequence. As he takes his team away for a short break to fill a "long weekend", all fit and ready for action with the exception of Nemanja Vidic, Darren Fletcher and Anderson, the United manager is acutely aware the only thing that matters is how his side perform for 90 minutes on Monday night. "I don't know if I thrive on it, but I am up for it," he said.
"I am prepared for it and my players will be prepared for it. The previous games are irrelevant. We have played three times this year, the Community Shield, the FA Cup and the league game at Old Trafford. It doesn't matter now. The past is the past. It is all down to Monday."