Darren Fletcher admits Manchester City are genuine title contenders, although he believes United are better equipped to win the league.
The Reds' big-spending crosstown rivals have a star-studded squad at their disposal and are currently flying high, level on points with United at the top of the league. But Fletch says talent alone doesn't guarantee success: team spirit and title-race know-how, he says, could go a long way to determining the destination of this season's league title.
“City are right there with us at the top of the league and they’re winning games and looking solid defensively,” Fletch says. “When you’ve got that much money to spend and you sign that many quality players you’re always going to be a threat.
“But I think maybe the team spirit and the togetherness is still to come. It takes a while to build team spirit – it doesn’t happen overnight. Manchester City have signed a lot of players in a short space of time – they’ll still be getting to know each other and won’t have created the sort of team spirit we feel we have here.”
The Scotland captain says he expects Roberto Mancini to sign even more players in the January transfer window as City prepare to push for their first league title since 1968.
In the intervening 41 seasons, the Blues have only registered two top-four finishes in the top-flight. So does the club have the necessary know-how to maintain a title challenge when it comes down to the crunch?
“Experience is important,” Fletcher says. “We've been there before and we've experienced what it takes in a title run-in. It takes last-minute goals, it takes grinding out results, it takes knowing how to respond from a European game... we have experience dealing with all these things and it's something City haven't dealt with yet. It's all new to them.
“But they have a lot of quality players and when that's the case you're always a threat.”