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United, City renew hostilities ahead of Manchester derby at Old Trafford

MANCHESTER, England -- As statements of intent go, it couldn't have been much bigger.

“If we only consider this season,” Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said, “there is just one club in Manchester — and it's ours.”

That comment — an eye-catching one from a coach usually so reserved in front of the media — was made last month ahead of a Champions League game against Barcelona.

To some, it was a mere statement of fact, with City 12 points ahead of United in the Premier League at the time and still in contention for trophies on four fronts.

To others, it was unnecessary goading. And it no doubt will have hit a nerve over at Old Trafford, at a club that is the reigning English champion and had ruled soccer in the city for the past three decades.

For that reason, United may take even more pleasure than usual if it can beat City in Tuesday's Manchester derby at Old Trafford.

“Well, Manchester United had lots and lots of seasons of domination,” Moyes said Monday, when asked about Pellegrini's comment. “I don't think if I was a manager I would have turned round and necessarily said that we were the only club in Manchester because football does change, it goes in cycles.”

“I think it's important for us to show the level we've got,” Moyes added, “and that we're not as far away as many people would have us.”

For the first time in a generation, City will head across town as the favorite to beat its fiercest rival at Old Trafford. United is down in seventh place in the standings after a turbulent first season under Moyes and City, to many, is the team most likely to be raising the Premier League trophy on May 11.

Pellegrini's side is six points behind first-place Chelsea with three games in hand. If it wins its remaining 11 games, City cannot be stopped.

“We always expect to go and win,” said a confident Pellegrini, whose first Manchester derby ended in a 4-1 victory for his side in September. “It's not just because Manchester United has had a difficult season (that) we are going to go there and win.”

That derby defeat was United's first crushing loss under Moyes this season — and a few more have followed over the next six months.

But what a difference a week has made for the United manager.

He woke last Monday to scathing headlines after an embarrassing 3-0 home loss to Liverpool, with suggestions abound that his time could be up if United was eliminated from the Champions League.

Seven days later and bolstered by two victories in a four-day span that kept the team in Europe and got it back on track in the league, Moyes was clicking his fingers as he walked cheerily through the club's training complex and sitting a little comfier in his chair at the pre-match news conference.

It's been that kind of season for Alex Ferguson's replacement — a massive low one week followed by a big high the next. There's been no consistency and of the many alarming statistics to blight Moyes' short reign, one perhaps stands out — United has just one win this campaign against a team in the current top nine.

“We want to try to perform better in the bigger games than we've done, I've got no doubt about that,” said Moyes, whose team is 18 points behind Chelsea. “I've got no doubt it will improve, and I want us to show we're still in there fighting.”

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